Today we have another fossil one of the more interesting fossils to have been discovered in the last few years if you ask me.
Species: Pierolapithecus catalaunicus
Pierolapithecus catalaunicus was discovered in Spain a few years ago (announced in 2004) and dates to the Middle Miocene (approximately 12.5-13 MYA). PZ wrote a post on it, as did Zimmer (who gripes just as much as I do about the word “missing link”).
Pierolapithecus catalaunicus, which looks a little like Toumai to me, is an interesting find. The authors of the paper announcing the find compared it, mainly, to Dryopithecus. Although there are difference in facial morphology between Pierolapithecus catalaunicus and Dryopithecus, they share a number of derived features such as the frontal processes of the maxillae, the nasals and the orbits are on the same plane, a deep palate and a broad nasal aperature. these features are also shared with Sivapithecus, Ankarapithecus and Ouranopithecus. (all subjects for future posts in this series). Here are some pictures of the face and palate:
Note the profile in C which contrasts with hominoids found in the Late Miocene.
Postcranially, Pierolapithecus catalaunicus is pretty interesting as well. The ribs indicate the thorax was broad and shallow as opposed to the narrow deep thorax seen in platyrrhines and cattarhines (the chimplike partial clavicle suggests this is correct). The lumbar vertebrae of Pierolapithecus catalaunicus is also similar to that found in extant apes. The wrist shows the derived morphology of extant apes, although the fingers seem to indicate a pattern similar to cattarhines (although this has been challenged) leading to the suggestion that vertical climbing and suspensory behavior were acquired independently (with suspensory behavior being the later development.
Here is a cladogram – based on the analysis of 96 characters from Pierolapithecus:
Begun and Ward, 2005, Science 308:203c Comment on Pierolapithecus catalaunicus, A New Middle Miocene Great Ape From Spain
Moya-Sola et al, 2004, Science 306:1339-1344 Pierolapithecus catalaunicus, a New Middle Miocene Great Ape from Spain
An additional resource is:
BEGUN, D. R., C. V. WARD, A. S. DEANE, T. L. KIVELL, M. C. NARGOLWALLA and N. D. TAYLOR. (2006). “Stem hominine or hominid? The phylogeny and functional anatomy of Pierolapithecus catalaunicus.” American Journal of Physical Anthropology 129 (Supplement 42): 63.
(Which have not read because I don’t have access to this journal)