A research team from George Washington University and the Institut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont identified a new type of small ape from nearly 12 million years ago that could be a missing link in human evolution. The new species has been dubbed Pliobates cataloniae.

Pliobates cataloniae is giving scientists an indication that both small and large apes might have been living together prior to the evolutionary split of hominids (humans) and apes. This is a contradiction to what has been believed, because previous fossil finds lacked both types. Scientists have believed that smaller apes evolved from larger ones, therefore, the fossils of this new species could be the missing link and have vital implications on the ancestors of both apes and hominoids that could change the history of evolution as it is now thought to be.

“Missing link” fossils show possible evolutionary history of small, large apes

Study author Sergio Almécija, an assistant professor of anthropology at George Washington University’s Center for the Advanced Study of Human Paleobiology, said that the missing link fossil could show the probability of small and large apes living at the same time, or that it could even mean great apes actually evolved from small apes such as gibbon sized apes.

Previously discovered fossil records didn’t show any small apes or prehistoric gibbons, therefore these kinds of small bodied apes were believed to have evolved from the bigger apes and become somehow smaller during the process of evolution.

Bones of new prehistoric primate found in Barcelona

The partial skeletal remains of the new species of primate were comprised of 70 bones that were found in Barcelona in 2011 during a landfill construction project.

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The bones were believed to have belonged to a small female ape specimen that weighed between 9 and 11 pounds.

Common modern ancestor could be hard to find

Pliobates’ forefathers are believed to have come about around the time right before the greater and lesser ape species split off and that it was related closer to apes and humans than to monkeys. Since primate evolution is complicated, it could end up being difficult for scientists to find a common ancestor in today’s species.

This is due to the fact that there are few existing hominoids today, with the modern list being comprised of humans, gorillas, orangutans and chimps. Therefore, the scientists are hard at work determining if this new species of primate is indeed a “missing link” in the evolutionary history of mankind or not.