17 Million Year Old Fossil Gives Clues On Human Evolution

17 Million Year Old Fossil Gives Clues On Human Evolution

The whale, known as Ziphiidae, lived at a time when the East African plateau was covered by dense forests, and was significantly lower than it is right now. The timing of the uplift has long puzzled scientists, because research into a rediscovered fossil suggests that it stopped moisture from the Indian Ocean from reaching the vegetation, and the area became a savannah, writes Laura Geggel for Discovery.

History of human ancestors

One theory is that our now extinct ancestors may have lived in trees in East Africa, but then gradually started walking on two feet after the area turned into grassland. The whale fossil helps researchers get a closer estimate of the timing of the uplift, which a new study claims occurred between 17 and 13.5 million years ago.

The whale fossil was originally found in 1964, but a study was not published until 1975. Incredibly the skull was then misplaced until 2011. The beaked whale usually lives in the ocean, but it was found 460 miles from today’s coastline, at an elevation of 2,100 feet.

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