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Tree-dwelling apes in Europe strode upright around 5 million years before members of the human evolutionary family hit the ground walking in Africa.

That’s the implication of fossils from a previously unknown ape that lived in what’s now Germany about 11.6 million years ago, say paleontologist Madelaine Böhme of the University of Tübingen in Germany and her colleagues. But the relation, if any, of these finds to the evolution of a two-legged stride in hominids by perhaps 6 million years ago is hazy (SN: 9/11/04).

Excavations in a section of a Bavarian clay pit produced 37 fossils from the ancient ape, dubbed Danuvius guggenmosi by the investigators. Bones from the most complete of four individuals represented by the new finds cover about 15 percent of that creature’s skeleton, including nearly complete specimens from the forearm and lower leg, Böhme’s team reports online November 6 in Nature. Earlier research had generated age estimates for fossil-bearing sediment in the German pit.

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