Scientists say evidence of an African environment inhabited by an ancient ape species provides insights into the early diversification of the ape-human lineage.
Knowledge of the environment inhabited by the early ape Proconsul can help in understanding and interpreting the connection between habitat preferences and that diversification, they said.
Proconsul and a primate relative, Dendropithecus, inhabited "a widespread, dense, multistoried, closed canopy" forest on Rusinga Island in Kenya, the researchers report in the journal Nature Communications.
A fossil of a single individual of Proconsul, which lived 18 to 20 million years ago, was found among geological deposits that also contained tree stump casts, calcified roots and fossil leaves, they said.
The discovery underscores the importance of forested environments in the evolution of early apes, anthropologist Holly Dunsworth of the University of Rhode Island said.