Research Article

Pierolapithecus catalaunicus, a New Middle Miocene Great Ape from Spain

Science  19 Nov 2004:
Vol. 306, Issue 5700, pp. 1339-1344
DOI: 10.1126/science.1103094

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Abstract

We describe a partial skeleton with facial cranium of Pierolapithecus catalaunicus gen. et sp. nov., a new Middle Miocene (12.5 to 13 million years ago) ape from Barranc de Can Vila 1 (Barcelona, Spain). It is the first known individual of this age that combines well-preserved cranial, dental, and postcranial material. The thorax, lumbar region, and wrist provide evidence of modern ape–like orthograde body design, and the facial morphology includes the basic derived great ape features. The new skeleton reveals that early great apes retained primitive monkeylike characters associated with a derived body structure that permits upright postures of the trunk. Pierolapithecus, hence, does not fit the theoretical model that predicts that all characters shared by extant great apes were present in their last common ancestor, but instead points to a large amount of homoplasy in ape evolution. The overall pattern suggests that Pierolapithecus is probably close to the last common ancestor of great apes and humans.

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