Species: Nakalipithecus nakayamai
It’s been awhile since I have used a fossil primate in this series, so “ripped straight from the headlines” (as they say in the Law and Order commercials) here is Nakalipithecus nakayamai:
Nakalipithecus nakayamai was found in the Nakali region of Kenya and dates to 9.88-9.74 MYA. The find consists of a partial lower mandible and some isolated teeth (canine, incisors, deciduous premolar, adult premolars, and molars). A P3 representing an unidentified large bodied hominoid was also found. As is standard practice when announcing new species, Nakalipithecus nakayamai was compared to a wide variety of Miocene hominoids and is most similar to Ouranopithecus. Analysis of the teeth indicates some sexual dimorphism. A picture of the canine and incisors is below:
The arrow points to a lingual cusplet on the canine. Molars seem to be less specialized towards hard/abrasive foods than Ouranopithecus.
Although a lot of press coverage has been devoted to the possibility that this is the “missing link” between apes and humans, aided and abetted by the authors themselves, this angle is less important than the fact that there are now three known (Nakalipithecus, Samburupithecus, and Chororapithecus) and one, as yet, unidentified species of large bodied hominoid in mid to late Miocene Africa. I expect more will be found now that we have evidence that hominoid diversity in mid to late Miocene Africa has been somewhat underestimated…