Weekly snapshot of China's archaeological news

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, November 16, 2019
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BEIJING, Nov. 16 (Xinhua) -- The following are highlights of China's archaeological news from the past week:

-- 1.9-mln-yr-old giant ape gene

Chinese and Danish scientists have successfully retrieved genetic materials from a 1.9-million-year-old fossil of a Gigantopithecus blacki, a species of great ape.

The finding marks the first time that such ancient protein evidence from fossils in the subtropics was retrieved. Scientists said it sheds new light on the origins and evolution of the long-extinct great ape species.

With the evidence, scientists are able to demonstrate that Gigantopithecus is a sister clade to orangutans with a common ancestor about 12 million to 10 million years ago, implying that the divergence of Gigantopithecus from Pongo forms part of the Miocene radiation of great apes.

Presumed to be more than two meters tall and weigh over 300 kg, giant apes are the largest primates known to have lived on earth. Their fossils date from two million to 300,000 years ago.

-- Insect pollinator in 99-mln-year amber

Scientists from the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Indiana University discovered a beetle pollinator in a piece of Burmese amber that dates back to the mid-Cretaceous around 99 million years ago and is believed to be one of the oldest pollination insects in the world.

The research confirmed the hypothesis of Cretaceous insect-angiosperm interaction and supplied the earliest evidence for entomophily, according to Wang Bo, professor at the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology who led the research.

The beetle specimen included in the amber piece is identified as a new species under the family Mordellidae. The extant Mordellidae beetles are a typical flower-visiting group.

Scientists said the insect is believed to be highly evolved for pollen collection, as part of the maxillary palps, a leg-like structure near the mouth, was huge.

Numerous pollen grains were found on and near the insect's body in the amber piece.

The finding deepens the history of insect pollination of flowering plants by 50 million years and suggests the existence of such mutualism at least as far back as 99 million years ago. Enditem

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