General, Research, Technology

Scientists have reconstructed the family tree of large monkeys

Scientists restored the pedigree of the largestmonkeys that have ever existed on earth. Using an analysis performed on 2 million-year-old teeth enamel proteins, the researchers identified the genealogical tree of an extinct monkey of the genus Gigantopithecus blacki and found that it is directly related to one of the largest monkeys living on our planet today - orangutans. The work of specialists is published in the journal Nature.

Frame from the movie “King Kong”

What makes the study great isthe fact that these giant primates disappeared from the face of the Earth about 300 thousand years ago. If we met them today, it would be an amazing sight. The growth of these giants reached three meters, and the weight could reach 600 kg. Yes, this is not exactly King Kong, but nonetheless. The teeth were discovered in one of the caves in China, and a successful analysis gave scientists hope that in the end we can look even further in time. Researchers note that some primates are very close to humans from an evolutionary point of view.

This is interesting: How did the monkeys learn to walk on two legs?

Existence of this ancient giant speciesmonkeys were first discovered in 1935 after accidentally buying a petrified jaw and teeth of an ancient primate in a traditional medicine store in Hong Kong. The teeth were sold as “dragon teeth”. Thanks to the latest research methods and detailed analysis, the tooth enamel from the remains allowed scientists to trace the history of the monkey down to its origin. The thing is that proteins can last longer than DNA in teeth and bones, potentially increasing the amount of time that scientists can track it. The main purpose of enamel is to protect teeth. That is why the jaw and teeth have remained intact to this day.

Giant monkey jaw

Based on a comparison with modernmonkeys, it seems that G. blacki and orangutans split from a common ancestor about 10-12 million years ago. For comparison, the lineage of humans and chimpanzees is believed to have split about 7-8 million years ago. In this case, it is a serious legacy. The obtained result from the point of view of ancestral research is very good. Up to this point, only the last 50 thousand years of evolution of hominids have been successfully mapped. And the oldest surviving human DNA that we know of is dated about 400,000 years ago. In addition to learning about G. blacki, studies show that proteins can retain genetic information longer than previously thought, even under the most extreme conditions. This means that in the future we will have a lot more discoveries.

Read more news about amazing archaeological discoveries on our channel in Yandex.Zen.

Recall that it was still possible to obtaingenetic information only from fossils whose age did not exceed 10 thousand years and which were found in warm and humid places. And the ancient remains of the alleged ancestors of our species, Homo sapiens, are also mainly found in subtropical regions, especially at the beginning of human evolution. Researchers believe that thanks to a new discovery in the future, they will be able to obtain similar information about the evolutionary line leading to humans.