The age of primates is very ancient. Pierolapithecus catalaunicus is an extinct species of primate which lived about 13 million years ago throughout the Miocene in what’s now Hostalets de Pierola, Catalonia, Spain, giving it its scientific name.
Pierolapithecus catalaunicus profile
It is believed by some to be a common ancestor of each modern people and the opposite great apes, or a minimum of a species that’s nearer to a common ancestor than any earlier fossil discovery.
The Pierolapithecus catalaunicus species was described by a team of Spanish paleoanthropologists led by Salvador Moyà-Solà on the basis of a fossil specimen found in December 2002. The discovering was first reported within the journal Science on November 19, 2004.
Pierolapithecus catalaunicus was present in Hostalets de Pierola, Barcelona, Spain, and is estimated to be 12.5-13 million years old. The holotype specimen is a partial skeleton of an adult male with 83 identifiable bones.
The Pierolapithecus catalaunicus skull and post-cranial skeleton are a mosaic of derived and shared morphological options, making this Middle Miocene ape an excellent candidate to be the final common ancestor of great apes and people.
The facial options of P. catalaunicus would have resembled a gorilla right now; a comparatively flat face, high zygomatic roots, a large nasal aperture (opening), flat nostril, and the relative proportions of the higher molars.
When in comparison with different Miocene specimens, the relative size of the higher molars of Pierolapithecus catalaunicus places it into a special branch of the hominoid tree. While the specimen was present in Spain, scientists recommend that it in all probability originated in Africa.
However, since this specimen is the first of its type, they can’t say for sure. Analyses of the charges at which variations started to come up in our DNA and different apes recommend that our family in all probability started to diverge about 13 million years ago when Pierolapithecus catalaunicus was alive.
As do people and different great apes, Pierolapithecus had specialized diversifications for tree climbing: a large, flat ribcage, a stiff lower backbone, versatile wrists, and shoulder blades that lay alongside its back.
Pierolapithecus catalaunicus additionally has plesiomorphic monkey-like options akin to a sloped face and short fingers and toes. (Gibbons and Old World monkeys present more generalized characteristics.)
That Pierolapithecus can be ancestral to modern great apes is debated largely as a result of this great ape was discovered within the Iberian Peninsula, whereas a lot of the fossil proof of the evolution of hominids and hominins has been positioned in East Africa and Southeast Asia.
Because, nevertheless, the Mediterranean Sea contracted a number of instances within the past, allowing migration of terrestrial fauna between Africa and Europe, it’s possible that Pierolapithecus, or its descendants, might have lived on each continent.
Rather than a full common ancestor, it has been prompt that the species could also be ancestral to people, chimpanzees, and gorillas however not orangutans, given sure characteristics of the face.
According to New York Times, scientists in Spain have found fossils of an ape species from about 13 million years ago that they assume could have been the final common ancestor of all residing great apes, together with people.
The new ape species and its possible place in prehuman evolution are described in right now’s the issue of the journal Science by an analysis team led by Dr. Salvador Moyà-Solà of the Miquel Crusafont Institute of Paleontology in Barcelona. The fossil stays had been discovered close to Barcelona and named Pierolapithecus catalaunicus.
In the report, the researchers concluded that the well-preserved skull, teeth, and skeletal bones promised: “to contribute substantially to our understanding of the origin of extant great apes and humans.”
Dr. David R. Begun, a paleontologist at the University of Toronto who’s aware of the analysis however not a member of the team, known as the fossils “a great discovery,” including, “I am convinced it is a great ape.”
About 25 million years ago, Old World monkeys diverged from the primate line that led ultimately to apes and people. About 11 million to 16 million years ago, one other branching occurred, when primates often known as the great apes – which now embody orangutans, chimpanzees, gorillas, and people – break up from the lesser apes, represented by right now’s gibbons and siamangs.
Although the great ape group contains people, Dr. Brooks Hanson, deputy editor for bodily sciences at Science, stated, “it’s important to remember that we’ve had millions of years of evolution since then.”
The lineage resulting in people branched off from the chimpanzee line an estimated seven million years ago.
The shortage of fossils from these intervals has handicapped scientists trying to find proof of the common ancestors of great apes that emerged after the break up between them and the lesser apes.
Some candidates for that function have included Kenyapithecus and Afropithecus, however, Dr. Moyà-Solà stated their fossils seemed to be too primitive to be the common ancestor.
Dr. Moyà-Solà’s team stated the general pattern of their fossil skeleton prompt that the species was both the final common ancestor of great apes and people or near it.
Dr. Begun stated some features of the specimen’s face, palate and teeth made him assume that the species was maybe somewhat farther down the evolutionary line of great apes than the common ancestor, however was a big discovery, nonetheless.
The newly found individual, in all probability a male, weighed about 75 pounds and had a stiff lower backbone and versatile wrists that may have made it a tree-climbing specialist.
The researchers stated its arboreal skills had been more just like these of later great apes than to the more primitive monkeys.
The Pierolapithecus catalaunicus rib cage, or thorax, is wider and flatter than a monkey rib cage and just like that of modern great apes, Dr. Moyà-Solà stated.
“The thorax is the most important anatomical part of this fossil because it’s the first time that the modern great-apelike thorax has been found in the fossil record,” Dr. Moyà-Solà stated in a press release by the journal.
In a convention call from Barcelona on Wednesday, one other member of the analysis team, Dr. Meike Köhler of the Barcelona institute, stated the Pierolapithecus in all probability ate fruit, judging by its teeth, and had a flat face and broad nostril considerably like a chimpanzee’s.
The age of the fossil species, between 12.5 million and 13 million years, “coincides quite well with ages for the common ancestor proposed by geneticists,” Dr. Köhler stated.
In their report, the researchers famous that the skeleton confirmed that these early great apes “retained primitive monkeylike characters” and thus didn’t appear to help “the theoretical model that predicts that all characters shared by extant great apes were present in their last common ancestor.”
Finding the ancestral ape in Spain, and never Africa, posed no problem for scientists. The Mediterranean Sea expanded and contracted often within the past, allowing the dispersal of life between Africa and Europe. The Pierolapithecus, paleontologists stated, in all probability lived on each continent.
According to the brand new analysis printed within the Journal of Human Evolution, the form of the specimen’s pelvis signifies that Pierolapithecus lived close to the start of the great ape evolution after the lesser apes had begun to develop individually however before the great ape species started to diversify.
The team members used a tabletop laser scanner connected to a turntable to seize detailed floor photos of the fossil, which supplied them with a 3-D model to check the Pierolapithecus pelvis anatomy to residing species.
“The ilium – the largest bone in the pelvis – of the Pierolapithecus is wider than that of Proconsul nyanzae, a more primitive ape that lived approximately 18 million years ago.
The wider pelvis may be related to the ape’s greater lateral balance and stability while moving using its forelimbs. However, the fingers of the Pierolapithecus catalaunicus are unlike those of modern great apes, indicating that great apes may have evolved differently than scientists originally hypothesized,” stated examine first creator, Dr. Ashley Hammond, from the University of Missouri School of Medicine.
Following an in-depth examination of Pierolapithecus, consultants say the form of the specimen’s pelvis signifies that it lived close to the start of the great ape evolution after the lesser apes had begun to develop individually however before the great ape species started to diversify (University of Missouri School of Medicine)
“Pierolapithecus catalaunicus seemed to use a lot of upright behaviors such as vertical climbing, but not the fully suspensory behaviors we see in great apes alive today. Today, chimpanzees, orangutans, bonobos, and gorillas use forelimb-dominated behaviors to swing below branches, but Pierolapithecus catalaunicus didn’t have the long, curved finger bones needed for suspension, so those behaviors evolved more recently.”
The researchers proceed to try to find fossils to additional clarify the evolution of the great apes in Africa.
“Contrary to popular belief, we’re not looking for a missing link,” Dr. Hammond stated. “We have different pieces of the evolutionary puzzle and big gaps between points in time and fossil species.
We need to continue fieldwork to identify more fossils and determine how the species are related and how they lived. Ultimately, everything is connected.”
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