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Family tree of extinct apes reveals our early evolutionary history

A new family tree of apes that lived in the Miocene between 23 and 5.3 million years ago reveals which are our close relatives and which are only distant cousins

Humans 16 March 2022

Dryopithecus

Dryopithecus, an extinct ape from the Miocene

JOHN SIBBICK/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

A huge study of fossil apes clarifies which extinct species are most closely related to humans. But it can’t resolve one of the most controversial questions in human evolution: whether the last common ancestor we shared with living African apes like chimpanzees lived in Africa or Eurasia.

Primatologist Kelsey Pugh at the American Museum of Natural History in New York looked at apes that lived during the Miocene epoch, between 23 and 5.3 million years ago. She focused on those from the middle …