Washington, June 18 (ANI): An anthropologist has determined that a fossil found in a Chinese cave 15 years ago, dating back to almost 2 million years, is from a "mystery" ape, and is evidence of a new form of early human.
According to a report in National Geographic News, the fossil was found in the 1980s in south-central China's Longgupo cave by Russell Ciochon.
"The jaw was very perplexing. It didn't fit in any category of hominin (early human ancestor) that we knew of in Asia, and it also didn't fit into any ape category," said Ciochon.
Ciochon and colleagues theorized that the fossil represented an unknown hominid who lived in Asia 1.9 million years ago, which is about a million years earlier than early humans are generally thought to have arrived in the region.
The ancient hominin, Ciochon's team suggested in 1995, was a more primitive species than Homo erectus, the human ancestor thought to have migrated from Africa and populated Asia.
The 1995 theory implied that a line of H. erectus could have evolved independently in Asia.
As the years passed, Ciochon recounted, new evidence caused him to reconsider the disputed fossil.
First, in 2000 and 2001, scientists showed that the Longgupo jaw had teeth that had strong similarities to those of the older, extinct ape Lufengpithecus, a possible orangutan ancestor.
Then, in 2005, Ciochon examined the large collection of primate teeth from the Pleistocene epoch (about 1.8 million to 11,500 years ago) at the Guangxi Natural History Museum in Nanning, China.
The collection, from a well-documented cave site, included some unidentified primate teeth that strongly resembled those in the Longgupo jaw-and that's when Ciochon was convinced.
"All of a sudden there is more evidence, and when you have more evidence, ideas can change," said Ciochon. (ANI)