Today’s Solutions: March 27, 2023

Once the dwellers of mainland Southeast Asia, the ancient giant orangutan is now extinct. Today, orangutans are only found in their natural habitat on the two islands of Sumatra and Borneo. These two are classed as different species due to the fact they grew so genetically different from each other. The animals’ drastic change in size is one reason for this. It is known that this modern species shrunk over time from its enormous ancestor, although, details have previously been a little hazy, requiring scientists to do guesswork on the subject matter.

New fossils found

Thanks to new fossil records of 600 recently discovered teeth, we now have an answer to this mystery. These orangutan remains were found scattered across 10 caves in southern China and support a theory claiming a period of declining size starting from around two million years ago.

The study, published in the Journal of Human Evolution, discusses the genome analysis and visual methods used to come to this conclusion. Comparisons found was that the tooth shape remained the same, while size progressively decreased. Plus, researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing estimate that the ancient orangutans’ average body weight was close to double the amount it is of the modern species today.

Why the declining size?

Fossil records of other ancient Asian animals, such as monkeys and rhinos, also saw a decline in body size around this same period. Scientists think this is due to the colder and drier climate the world was experiencing at this time. A reduced food source pushed evolution to produce smaller animals that needed less energy input.

What can we learn from this?

Understanding the past evolution and genome structure of animals can lead to more in depth information about diseases they may be susceptible to, and also requirements for a healthier life. This information could help animals conservationists cater to the needs of the current orangutan species more successfully.

Studying the evolution of species, especially primates, allows insight into our own evolution. Understanding the natural world is still a huge challenge for science, so any information we can gain no matter what organism may help in the long run. When we grasp how DNA truly works, we can hopefully eradicate genetic diseases and manipulate the genome to live healthier and longer lives.

Source study: Journal of Human EvolutionEvolutionary trend in dental size in fossil orangutans from the Pleistocene of Chongzuo, Guangxi, southern China

Solutions News Source Print this article
More of Today's Solutions

Removable solar panels might soon be rolled out on railway tracks

Solar panels are being laid out "like carpet" across Swiss train rails as part of the country's renewable energy initiative. Swiss startup company Sun-Ways ...

Read More

What cities can learn from Spokane’s approach to homelessness

The common approach cities take to deal with homelessness is tough enforcement: ticketing people for panhandling or sleeping in doorways or busing them to ...

Read More

How to have a conversation with someone you disagree with

Recent events in the United States underscore a deep trend towards polarization that is spreading throughout the country. As current events bring up strong ...

Read More

Eat this amount of fruit daily to significantly lower diabetes risk

As you may already know, fruit is an excellent source of essential vitamins and minerals. A recent study, however, shows that just the right ...

Read More