Monday, 2 July 2018

Mystery extinct ape found in ancient Chinese tomb

By Helen Briggs BBC News
21 June 2018

An ape that is new to science has been discovered buried in an ancient tomb in China.

The gibbon has already become extinct, suggesting humans wiped out primate populations long before the modern age.

Living primates are in peril, with many on the brink of extinction.

The new gibbon, named Junzi imperialis, may be the first to vanish as a direct result of human actions, according to scientists led by the Zoological Society of London.

"All of the world's apes - chimpanzees, gorillas, orang-utans and gibbons - are threatened with extinction today due to human activities, but no ape species were thought to have become extinct as a result of hunting or habitat loss," said lead researcher Dr Samuel Turvey.

"However, the discovery of the recently extinct Junzi changes this, and highlights the vulnerability of gibbons in particular."

First emperor
The partial skull of the gibbon was found in a burial chamber dating from about 2,300 years ago in Shaanxi Province, central China, alongside the bones of other animals, including lynx, leopards and a black bear.

The tomb, and perhaps the ape, may have belonged to Lady Xia, the grandmother of China's first emperor, Qin Shihuang, who ordered the building of the Great Wall of China and the Terracotta Warriors.

Gibbons were seen as having noble characteristics in Chinese culture and were kept as luxury pets.

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