“Oldest ape sheds light on human evolution” is the headline of an article in ABC News in Science 16 May 2013 about two fossils found in the East African Rift Valley and described in Nature DOI: 10.1038/nature12161 15 May 2013. The ABC article begins: “The discovery of the 25.2 million-year-old fossilised partial jaw and tooth suggest tectonic movement could have played a role in human evolution, say researchers.” The fossils were found in the western branch of the Great Rift Valley that runs from the Red Sea down through east Africa. The researchers believe the rift began forming by tectonic movement around 25 million years ago – much the same time as the ape lineage split from Old World Monkeys (e.g. baboons, macaques, mandrills).

The new fossils were found in a layer dated as 25.2 million years old, making them the oldest ape and Old World Monkey fossils so far found. One of the fossils is a piece of a jawbone with four teeth attached that has been identified as being an ape, and given the name Rukwapithecus fleaglei. The other is a single tooth with a fragment of jawbone attached. This has been identified as belonging to an Old World Monkey, and has been named Nsungwepithecus gunnelli. Eric Roberts, a geologist of James Cook University in Queensland, Australia, commented: “The fossils provide a link between the earlier primates and the later group that gave rise to apes and humans." Because of the location of the fossils in the rift valley, Roberts also suggested the movement of tectonic plates helped shape human evolution. According to Roberts, "When you change the landscape you are creating different environments and creating a situation that favours evolution and diversification."


Editorial Comment: Did you notice how the story evolved? Scientists began with two jaw fragments and finished with tectonic plate movements giving rise to human beings. Amazing how big an evolutionary story can be built on such small fragmentary fossils? In case you didn’t notice the missing links between the two ends of this story, they are 1) a pre-existing belief that Old World Monkeys and apes evolved from a common monkey ancestor; 2) a belief that change in the environment resulting from tectonic movements can manufacture any genes needed to change a monkey into an ape; and 3) a belief that apes turned into people. So what does the evidence really show? The monkey tooth was identified as such because it looks like a monkey tooth. The piece of ape jaw was identified as belonging to an ape for the same reason – it looks like a piece of ape jaw. This certainly does indicate that monkeys and apes have been monkeys and apes ever since these fossils were buried, however long ago scientists believe that to be. The only truly logical conclusion you can draw from the total evidence found is that monkeys and apes have multiplied after their kinds, just as Genesis tells us. (Ref. anthropology, primates)

Evidence News 22 May 2013


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