Photo by: Purwo Kuncoro

Origin Stories: Ancestor

Alesi, the skull of the new extinct ape species Nyanzapithecus alesi (KNM-NP 59050). Copyright: Fred Spoor

Origin Stories Season Two | Episode One | Ancestor!13437bb9e41b895c7fd2b5a344b131989953d393

Just recently, the news media announced the discovery of a fossil ape called Alesi. This remarkable fossil was found in Kenya, and it’s from a time period where there’s a big blank spot in the fossil record of our family tree. This 13 million-year-old fossil tells us something new about the very early evolution of apes and even shows what the common ancestor of us and all the other living apes might have looked like. This episode of Origin Stories tells the story behind the discovery.

Bonus Content

3D animation of the Alesi skull computed from the ESRF microtomographic data. It shows first the skull in solid 3D rendering, then transparent surface rendering is used to show the endocast shape (light blue), the internal ears (green), and the permanent teeth germs (grey and brown). © Paul Tafforeau / ESRF

Photo Gallery


New 13 million-year-old infant skull sheds light on ape ancestry

Questions and answers about Alesi

New infant cranium from the African Miocene sheds light on ape evolution. Nengo, I., Tafforeau, P., Gilbert, C.C., Fleagle, J.G.., Miller, E.R., Feibel, C., Fox, D., Feinberg, J., Pugh, K.D., Berruyer, C., Mana, S., Engle, Z. and Spoor, F.  Nature 10 August 2017. doi:10.1038/nature23456.


Editor Julia Barton 

Series Producer Meredith Johnson

Associate Producer Shuka Kalantari


Sound Design Katie McMurran

Theme Music Henry Nagle 

Intern Yuka Oiwa

Additional Music Lee Rosevere



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