20-million-year-old ape skull unearthed in Uganda

August 2, 2011
Map of Uganda showing the remote Karamoja region in the northeast of the country where a team of Ugandan and French paleontologists announced Tuesday they had found a 20-million-year-old ape skull, saying it could shed light on the region's evolutionary history.

A team of Ugandan and French paleontologists announced Tuesday they had found a 20-million-year-old ape skull in northeastern Uganda, saying it could shed light on the region's evolutionary history.

"This is the first time that the complete skull of an ape of this age has been found ... it is a highly important fossil and it will certainly put Uganda on the map in terms of the scientific world," Martin Pickford, a paleontologist from the College de France in Paris, told journalists in Kampala.

The fossilised skull belonged to a male Ugandapithecus Major, a remote cousin of today's great apes which roamed the region around 20 million years ago.

The team discovered the remains on July 18 while looking for fossils in the remnants of an extinct volcano in Uganda's remote northeastern Karamoja region.

Preliminary studies of the fossil showed that the tree-climbing herbivore, roughly 10 years old when it died, had a head the size of a chimpanzee’s but a brain the size of a baboon’s, Pickford said.

Brigitte Senut, a professor at the Musee National d’Histoire Naturelle, said that the remains would be taken to Paris to be x-rayed and documented before being returned to Uganda.

"It will be cleaned in France, it will be prepared in France... and then in about one year's time it will be returned to the country," Senut said.

Paleontologists from France have been visiting Uganda on expeditions funded by the French government for the past 25 years, Senut said.

The least developed region in Uganda, the arid plains of Karamoja have in recent years been largely pacified following decades of insecurity linked to armed cattle raiding between nomad communities.

Explore further: Firms gripe about Uganda telecom inertia

Related Stories

Uganda forests rapidly disappearing: study

June 20, 2009

Uganda has lost nearly a third of its forest cover since 1990 due to expanding farmlands, a rapidly growing human population and increased urbanisation, a government report said on Friday.

The secret jungles of ancient France

July 16, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Ah, Paris. Land of the Eiffel Tower, delicious French bread and... tropical rainforests? Sacrebleu! It seems unlikely, but scientists have discovered evidence that France may have been a hot, wet tropical ...

Mastodon skull discovered in Chile

May 18, 2011

A perfectly preserved skull of a mastodon -- a relative of today's elephant -- was found here during excavation work at a water treatment plant, one of the scientists involved in the discovery said Tuesday.

Recommended for you

Ancient genome from Africa sequenced for the first time

October 8, 2015

The first ancient human genome from Africa to be sequenced has revealed that a wave of migration back into Africa from Western Eurasia around 3,000 years ago was up to twice as significant as previously thought, and affected ...

Rare braincase provides insight into dinosaur brain

October 8, 2015

Experts have described one of the most complete sauropod dinosaur braincases ever found in Europe. The find could help scientists uncover some of the mysteries of how dinosaur brains operated, including their intellectual ...

How much for that Nobel prize in the window?

October 3, 2015

No need to make peace in the Middle East, resolve one of science's great mysteries or pen a masterpiece: the easiest way to get yourself a Nobel prize may be to buy one.

The dark side of Nobel prizewinning research

October 4, 2015

Think of the Nobel prizes and you think of groundbreaking research bettering mankind, but the awards have also honoured some quite unhumanitarian inventions such as chemical weapons, DDT and lobotomies.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (2) Aug 02, 2011
Idi Amin's ancestor!

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.