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Ape may be the missing link in chain of evolution.

A NEWLY-DISCOVERED prehistoric ape may be a missing link in the evolutionary chain leading to humans, say scientists.

The 13-million-year-old creature, whose fossil remains were unearthed in Spain, is thought to be the oldest known common ancestor of modern great apes.

Pierolapithecus catalaunicus dates back to a ``dark age'' in primate development about which little is known.

The near-complete pierolapithecus skeleton found near Barcelona shows a variety of important features shared by modern great apes.

Although it was discovered in Spain, scientists believe it probably also lived in Africa, the birthplace of humans.

Team leader Dr Salvador Moya- Sol a from the Miguel Crusafont institute of palaeontology in Barcelona said: ``The importance of this new fossil is that for the first time all the key areas that define modern great apes are well preserved. '' The first sign of pierolapithecus was a canine tooth turned up by a bulldozer clearing land.

Scientists think the individual they found was male and weighed about 35 kg (5 1/ 2 st). From the shape of its teeth, it appeared to have been a fruit eater.

The ribcage, lower spine and wrists bear hallmarks of climbing abilities similar to those of modern great apes.

Other traits shared were a large degree of hand rotation and a distinctly ape-like skull.
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Nov 19, 2004
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