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Bones of continuing contention.

The old television game show "What's My Line?" featured contestants who questioned guests in the quest to figure out their occupations. An anthropological version of that show might be called "What's My Lineage?" with Sivapithecus sitting in as the contestant-stumping guest.

Fossill investigators are embroiled in efforts to identify the evolutionary "occupation" and standing of this ancient creature. The debate continues in the nov. 14 NATURE. Richard Leakey, head of the National Museums of Kenya, and Alan Walker of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore analyze fossils they discovered two years ago at the Bulouk site in northern Kenya and initially identified as an early form of Sivapithecus (SN: 1/21/84, p. 41). The remains -- parts of upper and lower jawbones and teeth--are found in sediments now estimated by their co-workers to be around 17.2 million years old. Larger Sivapithecus specimens from India, Pakistan and Turkey bear a close resemblance to the Buluk find, according to Leakey and Walker. The Buluk species, however, is much older than the rest. The earliest known Sivpithecus existed around 7.5 million years ago.

Some researchers believe Sivpithecus is an ancestor only of orangutans (SN: 5/18/85, p. 316). But Leakey and Walker say the new analysis confirms their view that the Buluk creature is an early type of Sivapithecus ancestral to modern apes and humans.

The identify of the Buluk fossils, however, is far from clear, notes Eric Delson of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. They may belong to another class of hominoids -- ancestors of apes and humans -- known as Kenyapithecus, he reports in the same NATURE. It is not yet clear whether these creatures volved along the same lineage as Sivapithecus. A wider comparison of the fossils with other known remains indicates, he says, that the Buluk animal is a male Kenyapithecus, similar in structure and slightly larger than female remains of the same species.

More extensive fossil finds should help to clarify this segment of "What's My Lineage?"
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Title Annotation:classification of Sivapithecus fossils
Publication:Science News
Date:Dec 7, 1985
Words:334
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