A team of Ugandan and French scientists has discovered a partial skull of a tree—climbing ape dated to around 20 million years ago in Uganda’s Karamoja region.

The palaeontologists found the remains on July 18 while looking for fossils in the remnants of an extinct volcano in the semi—arid region of Uganda’s northeast, Past Horizon reported.

Uganda’s junior minister for tourism, wildlife and heritage said the skull was a remote cousin of the Hominidea Fossil Ape. It is also the first time a skull of an Ugandapithecus Major, a species named in 1950, has been found.

“This is the first time that the complete skull of an ape of this age has been found ... it is a highly important fossil and it will certainly put Uganda on the map in terms of the scientific world,” Dr Martin Pickford, a palaeontologist from the College de France in Paris, told journalists in Kampala.

“What makes this particular discovery special was its age, completeness, dimensions, excellent preservation of the teeth,” said Dr Pickford.

Preliminary studies of the fossil showed that the tree—climbing herbivore, roughly 10 years old when it died, had a head the size of a chimpanzee’s but a brain the size of a baboon’s, he said.

According to the team, the skull is from a young adult male — based on the size of the canines, and the fact that the teeth are fully erupted but not heavily worn.