A new study conducted by researchers from Duke University and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology has revealed that the prehistoric Victoriapithecus had a brain of a superior complexity.
The finding should not come as a surprise as many previous studies have documented the intelligence of various monkey species. One the most recent ones have proven that they prefer cooked food to raw food when given a choice, and that they can even learn how to prepare meals themselves.
This study, published last Friday (July 3, 2015), in the journal Nature Communications, stresses that the 15 million year old Victoriapithecus skull examined for the project could explain how the primate brain and the human brain evolved over time.
The Victoriapithecus were part of the same group that today includes close human relatives such as the macaques and baboons. The 15 million year old skull is the oldest monkey skull to ever be discovered. It was found way back in 1987, in Kenya, on a Lack Vitoria island.
The researchers from Duke University and Max Planck used X-ray imaging of a high-resolution in order to put together a 3D computer generated model of the ancient animal’s brain.
What they found was remarkable. It turns out that despite their intelligence, the Victoriapithecus had a brain that was only half the size of those found in modern day monkeys. Their brain also had many wrinkles and folds, which indicate a great deal of complexity.
Lauren Gonzales, study co-author, gave a statement saying that from an evolutionary perspective, in the area of the family tree where apes and human can be found, the working theory is that brains first got to be beiger, and than they became more folded and more complex.
But the co-author went on to explain that this study has proven things happened in reverse for monkeys. The animals first developed complexity in their brains, and then started to grow them bigger.
The 3D model also showed that the Victoriapithecus had a much larger than expected olfactory bulb. It was three (3) tiomes bigger than expected, to be exact, and Gonzales informed that this means that the species most likely had a superior sense of smell that is no longer found in modern day monkeys.
He also shared that the most likely reason why contemporary primates have large brains and small olfactory bulb, the opposite of the Victoriapithecus, is because they’ve developed better vision.
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