New Morocco macaque remains dating about 2.5 million years fill the gap in species fossil record

Six macaque teeth, unearthed in Morocco, fill the gap in the species’ fossil record. Dated 2.5 million years, the fossils show great similarities with the current North African species.

Barary Macaques in Azrou, Morocco. / DR
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New macaque remains dating about 2.5 million years have been recently unearthed in Morocco by a group of Moroccan and Spanish researchers. The discovery fills the gap in the fossil record of the monkey species, which only lives in North Africa, Gibraltar and Asia.

According to the study entitled «New macaque fossil remains from Morocco», researchers found six cercopithecid teeth in the Guefaït site, in northeastern Morocco, reports EFEverde.

The macaque remains were recovered by reserachers from the Institut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont (ICP), the Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social (IPHES-CERCA), the Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV), the Geology Department (school of science of the Mohammed I university in Oujda) and the Institut National des Sciences d’Archéologie et du Patrimoine (INSAP).

2.5 million years ago

Believed to be 2.5 million years old, the remains show similarities with the current African subspecies. They weighed approximately 12 kilos and the size and morphology of their teeth «are compatible with the current North African species», known as Barbary macaque.

Researchers also believe that «the Guefaït’s teeth are more similar to those of the current African subspecies than to the European fossil forms».

The new fossils, hence, fill the gap in the macaque fossil gap record dating between 2.5 and 0.2 million years. For the record, the species is believed to have lived in Africa during the last 5 million years.

M. D. Guillén/IPHESM. D. Guillén/IPHES

Published by the Journal of Human Evolution, the study suggests that future research may help determine if this absence is due to local extinction of the species in Africa.

The fossils examined by the study are part of several others recovered during a series of excavation campaigns carried between 2018 and 2019. The excavations are part of an interdisciplinary project between Morocco and Spain.

The macaques are a genus of gregarious Old World monkeys of the subfamily Cercopithecinae. The 23 species of macaques inhabit ranges throughout Asia, North Africa, and Gibraltar. In Morocco, the maquaces live mainly in the Atlas and Rif Mountain ranges.

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