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Fossils point to ancient ape-monkey split

African finds offer peek at a pivotal moment in primate evolution

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1:12pm, May 15, 2013

LONG-GONE PRIMATES Using new fossils and previously recovered remains of related creatures, an artist created portraits of an ape (left) and a monkey (right) that inhabited East Africa 25 million years ago. 

The oldest known fossils of an ape and a monkey have been uncovered, providing an intriguing glimpse of a crucial time in primate evolution.

The discoveries suggest that by 25 million years ago, two major groups of primates were distinct: one that today includes apes and humans and another that encompasses Old World monkeys such as baboons and macaques. Previous studies using living primates’ DNA suggested that ancient apes and Old World monkeys parted from a common ancestor between 25 million and 30 million years ago.

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