Fossil primate Aegyptopithecus zeuxis sheds new light on primate brain evolution

From the paleoprimatology department comes news that a second intact cranium of Aegyptopithecus zeuxis has been found and is, ‘”extraordinarily unusual,” …mainly because it’s complete and uncrushed.’ This fossil cranium is important because tells us a lot about what was going on with primate brain evolution many million years ago.

The fossil cranium was found by Elwyn Simons, a primatologist at Duke University, and his colleagues. Aegyptopithecus zeuxis is around 30 million years old and believed to be an old world monkey. From National Geographic News,

“The completeness of the fossil skull allowed Simons and colleagues to take computerized x-rays and create a virtual model of the specimen’s tiny brain.

Based on analyses of previous fossil skulls collected at the dig site outside Cairo…, scientists had assumed the ancient monkey’s brain was larger and more advanced.

The new fossil indicates Aegyptopithecus had a relatively primitive brain compared to its descendants…

Nevertheless, the brain region responsible for vision, called the visual cortex, was large. This suggests that, like many primates, Aegyptopithecus had good vision.”

Aegyptopithecus zeuxisFrom the x-ray scan, Simons and team also found out there was a great degree of sexual dimorphism… an anatomical size phenomenon between males and females. In this situation the newly discovered fossil was a ‘female, which may have weighed about 5.5 pounds (2.5 kilograms)’ while the older Aegyptopithecus was a male, twice the size.

Dean Falk, an anthropologist that specializes in primate brain evolution, specifically hominid brain evolution, commented on the finding. She said this finding,

“”challenges “perceived truths” that large brain size was required for things like daytime activity and living in large social groups.

“[The new study] is saying you don’t have increased brain size back when you have some of these things,” she said.

In fact, Falk believes the virtual model of Aegyptopithecus’ brain, used in the new study, suggests the brain was even less advanced than the researchers propose.

However, Falk agrees that the brain model does confirm an enlarged area for vision, suggesting good eyesight was important early on for our ancestors.”

From what I am gathering this is an important conclusion that implies the primate brain expanded vision before it enlarged anywhere else. Of course more fossil primate skulls could support that or show that this feature happened in the Aegyptopithecus lineage.

The results of the x-ray analysis of Aegyptopithecus have apparently been published in PNAS, a journal notorious for letting press releases come out way before the actual publication. That being said, I don’t have a link to the actual publication as of now.

6 thoughts on “Fossil primate Aegyptopithecus zeuxis sheds new light on primate brain evolution

  1. The battle over origin is heating up.

    No life has ever evolved. And most intelligent people KNOW this, because of the gross absurdity of believeing in evolution.

    If evolutionists want to end the arguments all they need do is, get their brilliant heads together and assemble a ‘simple’ living cell. This should be possible, because today they certainly have a very great amount of knowledge about the contents of the so-called ‘simple’ cell.

    After all, shouldn’t all the combined Intelligence of all the worlds scientist be able the do what chance encounters with random chemicals, without a set of instructions, accomplished about 4 billion years ago, ‘according to the evolutionists,’ and having no intelligence at all available to help them along in their quest to become a living entity. Surely the evolutionists scientists of today should be able to make us a ‘simple’ cell.

    If it weren’t so pitiful it would be humorous, that intelligent people have swallowed the evolution mythology.

    Beyond doubt, the main reason people believe in evolution is that sources they admire, say it is so. It would pay for these people to do a thorough examination of all the evidence CONTRARY to evolution that is readily available: Try The evolutionists should honestly examine the SUPPOSED evidence ‘FOR’ evolution for THEMSELVES.

    Build us a cell, from scratch, with the required raw material, that is with NO cell material, just the ‘raw’ stuff, and the argument is over. But if the scientists are unsuccessful, perhaps they should try Mother Earth’s recipe, you know, the one they claim worked the first time about 4 billion years ago, so they say. All they need to do is to gather all the chemicals that we know are essential for life, pour them into a large clay pot and stir vigorously for a few billion years, and Walla, LIFE!

    Oh, you don’t believe the ‘original’ Mother Earth recipe will work? You are NOT alone, Neither do I, and MILLIONS of others!

  2. James,

    Totally off topic comment you have left here. If you have a personal beef with evolution, I don’t understand how evidence of a 30 m.y.a. primate skull supports your creationist agenda. If anything it negates it.

    And about your agenda, your challenge to evolutionists, to build a simple cell — is pretty petty. Biologists/chemists have proven that if the conditions are just right (like Earth hundreds of millions of years ago), i.e. the amount of water, hydrogen gas, methane, and ammonia along with heat and other forms of energy that organic molecules (such as amino acids, the building blocks of proteins) will form. This experiment was conducted by Stanley Miller and Harold Urey in 1953!

    Any old biology textbook should have it, I am reading about it in my fifth edition text by Campbell et al.. But if you don’t believe me, or you only have your handy bible in front of you, here are the references to the original reports of the experiments:

    Miller S. L. (1953). “Production of Amino Acids Under Possible Primitive Earth Conditions“. Science 117: 528. 617 283 3236.
    Miller S. L., and Urey, H. C (1959). “Organic Compound Synthesis on the Primitive Earth”. Science 130: 245.

    So that being said, chemists and biologists have proven that the components of cells can form. Furthermore, these molecules even group up together and form bubbles. Some of them automatically replicate too and begin to act like living things, reproducing themselves and changing over time.

    These entities are called protobionts or,

    “aggregates of abiotically produced molecules surrounded by a membrane or membrane-like structure. Protobionts exhibit some of the properties associated with life, including simple reproduction and metabolism, as well as the maintenance of an internal chemical environment different from that of their surroundings…
    …they maintain an internal chemical environment different from their surroundings and exhibit some of the properties associated with life, including metabolism and excitability. Lab experiments demonstrate that protobionts could have formed spontaneously from abiotically produced organic compounds. For example, droplets called liposomes form when the organic ingredients include certain lipids. These lipids organize into a molecular bilayer at the surface of the droplet, much like the lipid bilayer of cell membranes. Because the membrane is selectively permeable, the liposomes undergo osmotic swelling or shrinking when placed in solutions of different salt concentrations.”

    I don’t know what else you need to really need to prove that the basic cell can be synthesized in a lab and exhibit properties of living things. But that’s not to say biology has called their advances a complete victory and given up on making a basic cell. As last as last August 2006, there has been a call to make a minimal cell, in “Towards synthesis of a minimal cell.”

    So there you have it James. There’s what I consider an overwhelming amount of evidence supporting that we can and have synthesized basic components of cells, things that some consider basic living cells themselves since they replicate and are chemically separate from the environment. We’re continuing on expanding on that as well.

    Again, I don’t know what else you need.


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