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08/05/2011 08:38 am ET | Updated Oct 05, 2011

Ugandapithecus Major Skull Discovered In Africa, Estimated To Be 20 Million Years Old

A recent fossil discovery in East Africa may help shed light on the evolutionary history of primates in the region.

Discovery News reports that a team of paleontologists in northeastern Uganda has found a 20-million-year-old skull from a male Ugandapithecus Major, a distant ancestor of today's great apes.

Martin Pickford, a member of the team that made the discovery, explained that never before has a complete skull from “an ape of this age” been found.

According to Reuters, the skull belonged to a “tree-climbing herbivore” that was about 10 years old when it died. The primate “had a head the size of a chimpanzee's but a brain the size of a baboon's.”

The skull was excavated by a joint team of Ugandan and French scientists on July 18. They were searching for fossils in an extinct volcano in Uganda's remote Karamoja region, an area currently plagued by drought and food shortages, according to a BBC News report.

The skull will soon be taken to France to be studied. After cleaning and reconstruction, it will be returned to a museum in Uganda next year, reports The Hindu. According to Expatica, the French government has funded expeditions to Uganda for the past 25 years.

Last month, a triceratops fossil offered new clues on dinosaur extinction, and another recent finding suggests that a well-known bird fossil is actually closer to a dinosaur.