Monday, June 25, 2018

Gibbons In Imperial China

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence as this recent find of a previously unknown genus and species of gibbon in China from ca. 250 BCE reveals. 
The noblewoman's ape 
Human activities are causing extinctions across a wide array of taxa. Yet there has been no evidence of humans directly causing extinction among our relatives, the apes. Turvey et al. describe a species of gibbon found in a 2200- to 2300-year-old tomb ascribed to a Chinese noblewoman. This previously unknown species was likely widespread, may have persisted until the 18th century, and may be the first ape species to have perished as a direct result of human activities. This discovery may also indicate the existence of unrecognized primate diversity across Asia. 
Although all extant apes are threatened with extinction, there is no evidence for human-caused extinctions of apes or other primates in postglacial continental ecosystems, despite intensive anthropogenic pressures associated with biodiversity loss for millennia in many regions. Here, we report a new, globally extinct genus and species of gibbon, Junzi imperialis, described from a partial cranium and mandible from a ~2200- to 2300-year-old tomb from Shaanxi, China. Junzi can be differentiated from extant hylobatid genera and the extinct Quaternary gibbon Bunopithecus by using univariate and multivariate analyses of craniodental morphometric data. Primates are poorly represented in the Chinese Quaternary fossil record, but historical accounts suggest that China may have contained an endemic ape radiation that has only recently disappeared.
Samuel T. Turvey, et al., "New genus of extinct Holocene gibbon associated with humans in Imperial China" 360 (6395) Science 1346 (June 22, 2018). DOI: 10.1126/science.aao4903

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