The discovery of the fossilized remains of Victoriapithecus skull in 1997 in Kenya’s Lake Victoria was a big event and widely reported in the media. The primate’s remains were thought to be at least 15 million years old, and the remains led to a lot of speculations among researchers of the various field.
Evolutionary anthropologists studied the brain scans of the fossilized monkey skull, and it gave new insight into the branching of mankind’s ancient origin. The ancient primate fossil that was discovered in Kenya in 1997 was first scanned by a team from Duke University. They learned that the primate’s brain was wrinkled and well defined. The brain had aspects that look more complex when compared to modern decedents.
This ancient monkey known better as Victoriapithecus, is a member of the Old World primate family. It is a branch that has evolved into animals such as macaques and baboons.
The Duke University team was headed by Lauren Gonzales. He used Micro-CT scans of the skull to deduce a relation to the body. The brain volume was calculated, and it was 36 cubic centimeters. It is less than half the size of brains of modern day monkeys. The small size did not in any way mean that the brain was less endowed.
The brain of Victoriapithecus was incredibly complex and was composed of numerous wrinkles and folds. The CT scans revealed the olfactory bulb of the brain, an area that analyzes smell and was three times larger than expected.
Lauren explains that as compared to modern day monkeys and apes, the primates of that period had a better sense of smell. In higher primates, the brain is very big with a better sense of vision but in the process the sense of smell deteriorated. Hence, the olfactory bulb is very small.
The large olfactory bulb leads researchers to conclude that Victoriapithecus had a very good sense of smell. The latest discovery has revealed new details about early primate development and cognitive function. It has once again started a debate on the emergence of brain complexity versus brain size.