Thursday, August 4, 2011

Ugandapithecus major

It's a bit of an understatement to say that Martin Pickford is a contraversal figure in the world of paleoanthropology. After all this is the guy who wrote the book Richard E. Leakey: Master of Deceit. He is also the discoverer of the Orrorin tugensis fossils. Those fossils, like Pickford, are very controversial. But that's a different story for another day.

Pickford has made another fascinating discovery. This time it is a nearly complete fossil skull of an ape known as Ugandapithecus major that lived in Uganda 20 million years ago. It is believed to belong to a ten year old individual. Pickford has said that it "had a head the size of a chimpanzee’s but a brain the size of a baboon’s."

Right now the skull is heading to France where it will be X-rayed and further examined before returning to Uganda. It'll be neat to see where this critter fits into our evolutionary understanding of the ape family (or more accurately the superfamily Hominoidea).