Ancient Chinese Tomb Yields A New Gibbon Species

Posted: Jun 24 2018, 3:55pm CDT | by , Updated: Jun 24 2018, 4:04pm CDT, in Latest Science News


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Ancient Chinese Tomb Yields a New Gibbon Species
Credit: The Zoological Society of London

The skull and jaw found in the tomb are so distinctive that scientists have even placed them in a new gibbon genus

A new species of gibbon has been found in a most unexpected place: inside a royal ancient Chinese tomb. The remains of the gibbon were first excavated in 2004 and consist of a partial skull and jawbone. A new analysis of these bones reveals that they may not just represent a new species but also an entirely new genus of gibbons. The gibbon has been named Junzi imperialis, which means “scholarly gentleman” in ancient Chinese mythology. It represents a new but already extinct genus of gibbons.

Researchers reveal that Junzi imperialis may have been the first ape to go extinct since the ice age and that their disappearance was possibly caused by human activity. Even today world apes like chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans are threatened with extinction due to humans.

“Our discovery and description of Junzi imperialis suggests that we are underestimating the impact of humans on primate diversity. These findings reveal the importance of using historical archives such as the archaeological record to inform our understanding of conservation and stress the need for greater international collaboration to protect surviving populations of gibbons in the wild." Lead author Dr. Samuel Turvey from Zoological Society of London said in a statement.

Gibbons are considered an important part of Chinese culture and were often kept as high-status pets in the past. These particular gibbons were excavated from 12 burial pits inside an ancient tomb in Shaanxi Province in central China. The tomb dates back to around 2,300 years and may have belonged to Lady Xia, the grandmother of China's first emperor.

Researchers claim that Junzi imperialis were widespread in the region at the time and probably existed until the 18th century, less than three centuries ago. Today, no gibbons live anywhere near this area.

Based on the measurements of dental and cranial bones, researchers suggest that Junzi imperialis were smaller than most present-day gibbons and weighed about 13 pounds.

"Sadly, these features don't preserve, so we can't predict what it would have looked or sounded like,” Co-researcher Helen Chatterjee told Live Science. “But, based on what we know about living gibbons, we see most variation in facial fur color and patterns, and beautiful singing voices which are species-specific."

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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