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New genus of extinct Holocene gibbon associated with humans in Imperial China

21 / 06 / 2018, Science Now

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.

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