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Episode 48: Ancestor (rerelease)

In 2017, Dr. Isaiah Nengo announced the discovery of a 13 million-year-old fossil ape found in Kenya. This remarkable fossil, nicknamed Alesi, was from a time period where there’s a big blank spot in the fossil record of our family tree. Alesi tells us something new about the early evolution of apes and shows what the common ancestor of humans and all the other living apes might have looked like. In this episode, Dr. Nengo tells the story behind the discovery.

This episode was originally released in 2017. We’re revisiting it now because Isaiah Nengo will be featured on our new web series, Lunch Break Science, on December 3 at 11 am Pacific. He will share updates on his research and exclusive footage of his recent field work in the Turkana Basin.

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Special thanks to Isaiah Nengo of Stony Brook University and the Turkana Basin Institute, and Ellen Miller of Wake Forest University.

The Leakey Foundation

Origin Stories is a project of The Leakey Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to funding human origins research and outreach. Support this show and the science we talk about with a tax-deductible donation.


Click here to see photos of the discovery, along with a 3D animation of the inside of the fossil.

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

Questions and answers about Alesi

Skull secrets of an ancient ape

Research article in Nature: New infant cranium from the African Miocene sheds light on ape evolution


Produced by: Meredith Johnson and Shuka Kalantari

Editor: Julia Barton

Sound Design: Katie McMurran

Theme Music: Henry Nagle

Intern: Yuka Oiwa

Additional Music: Tech Toys by Lee Rosevere

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