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Mysterious remains of extinct ape discovered in ancient Chinese tomb

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A new extinct special of gibbon found in China

Scientists have made an interesting discovery in an ancient tomb in china’s Shaanxi province. They excavated the bones of an entirely new, but are already extinct genus of the gibbons.

Scientists studying the bones unearthed from an ancient tomb in china’s Shaanxi Province have discovered the remains of a new but extinct species of ape.

The experts, who were led by the Zoological Society of London, the incredible found in a 2300 year old burial chamber. The tomb may have belonged to Lady Xia, the grandmother of China’s first emperor, Qin Shihuang, who oversaw the construction of the Great Wall of China and the famous Terracotta Army.

When the tomb was excavated in 2004 a number of animal remains, which included gibbon bones were exhumed 12 graves. By using computer modelling, scientists were able to a new genus and species of the gibbon. The name Junzi imperialis, data show that the gibbon probably survived until less than 300 years ago.

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“This previously unknown species was probably widely distributed, may have persisted until the 18th century, and perhaps the first apes died as a direct result of human activities,” the researchers explain in the study, which is published in the journal Science.

Scientists say that the discovery of the dead apes provides a stark reminder of the vulnerability of the world of the apes, especially gibbons.

“Our discovery and description of Junzi imperialis suggests that we underestimate the human impact on primate diversity,” said study lead author Dr. Samuel Turvey of ZSL’s Institute for Zoology, in a statement. “These findings reveal the importance of the use of historical archives, such as the archaeological findings to inform our understanding of conservation and to emphasize the need for greater international cooperation to protect surviving populations of gibbons in the wild.”

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ZSL warned that the world of the monkeys are endangered today due to human activities. However, no great apes were believed to have been extinct due to hunting or loss of habitat.

The researchers note that 73 percent of the Asian apes are endangered, compared with 60 percent globally, adding that there are two gibbon species have recently disappeared in China.

Two species of gibbon, including the white-handed gibbon, has disappeared in China, and all the surviving Chinese species are currently classified as critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Endangered Species. The Hainan gibbon (Nomascus hainanus), one species of gibbons found on the Island of Hainan in the south of China, is now probably the world’s rarest mammal, with only 26 surviving individuals,” said ZSL, in his statement.

Seven primates, including the Bornean Orangutan and the Eastern lowland gorillas, are currently listed as critically endangered by the World wildlife Fund. Bonobos and chimpanzees are classified as endangered, while the Black spider monkey is listed as vulnerable.

Last year, scientists announced the discovery of a new species of the orangutan in North Sumatra, Indonesia, but warned that it could quickly be extinguished.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

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