Palaeontologists operating CT scanners have revealed the structure of a 20-million-year-old primate brain, thanks to an extremely well-preserved fossil skull.

Understanding the evolution of our wildly complex human brains isn’t easy, and there aren’t ancient brains just sitting around in the dirt to compare with.

Instead, researchers must look indirectly for evidence of brain shapes, based on the way brains leave imprints on skulls.

“It’s pretty remarkable,” John Flynn, one of the study’s authors and curator of fossil mammals at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, told Gizmodo.

The cleaning and subsequent CT scan analysis all reinforced that and the finding’s significance.”

The anthropoid branch of the evolutionary tree is broken into two groups: the New World monkeys, called the platyrrhines, and the Old World monkeys and great apes (including humans), called the catarrhines.

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