Skip to comments.'Original' great ape discovered [New genus "Missing Link" found!]
Posted on 02/18/2007 11:40:54 PM PST by LibWhacker
Scientists have unearthed remains of a primate that could have been ancestral not only to humans but to all great apes, including chimps and gorillas.
The partial skeleton of this 13-million-year-old "missing link" was found by palaeontologists working at a dig site near Barcelona in Spain.
Details of the sensational discovery appear in Science magazine.
The new specimen was probably male, a fruit-eater and was slightly smaller than a chimpanzee, researchers say.
Palaeontologists were just getting started at the dig when a bulldozer churned up a tooth.
Further investigation yielded one of the most complete ape skeletons known from the Miocene Epoch (about 22 to 5.5 million years ago).
Salvador Moyà-Solà of the Miquel Crusafont Institute of Palaeontology in Barcelona and colleagues subsequently found parts of the skull, ribcage, spine, hands and feet, along with other bones.
They have assigned it to an entirely new genus and species: Pierolapithecus catalaunicus .
Great apes are thought - on the basis of genetic and other evidence - to have separated from another primate group known as the lesser apes some time between 11 and 16 million years ago (The lesser apes include gibbons and siamang).
It is fascinating, therefore, for a specimen like Pierolapithecus to turn up right in this window.
Scientists think the creature lived after the lesser apes went their own evolutionary way, but before the great apes began their own diversification into different forms such as orang-utans, gorillas, chimps and, of course, humans.
" Pierolapithecus probably is, or is very close to, the last common ancestor of great apes and humans," said Professor Moyà-Solà.
The new ape's ribcage, lower spine and wrist display signs of specialised climbing abilities that link it with modern great apes, say the researchers.
The overall orthograde - or upright - body design of this animal and modern-day great apes is thought to be an adaptation to vertical climbing and suspending the body from branches.
The Miocene ape fossil record is patchy; so finding such a complete fossil from this time period is unprecedented.
"It's very impressive because of its completeness," David Begun, professor of palaeoanthropology at the University of Toronto, Canada, told the BBC News website.
"I think the authors are right that it fills a gap between the first apes to arrive in Europe and the fossil apes that more closely resemble those living today."
Planet of the apes
Other scientists working on fossil apes were delighted by the discovery. But not all were convinced by the conclusions drawn by the Spanish researchers.
Professor Begun considers it unlikely that Pierolapithecus was ancestral to orang-utans.
"I haven't seen the original fossils. But there are four or five important features of the face, in particular, that seem to be closer to African apes," he explained.
"To me the possibility exists that it is already on the evolutionary line to African apes and humans."
Professor David Pilbeam, director of the Peadbody Museum in Cambridge, US, was even more sceptical about the relationship of Pierolapithecus to modern great apes: "To me it's a very long stretch to link this to any of the living apes," he told the BBC News website.
"I think it's unlikely that you would find relatives of the apes that live today in equatorial Africa and Asia up in Europe.
"But it's interesting in that it appears to show some adaptations towards having a trunk that's upright because it's suspending itself [from branches].
"It also has some features that show quadrupedal (four-legged) behaviour. Not quadrupedal in the way chimps or gorillas are, but more in the way that monkeys are - putting their fingers down flat," he explained.
During the Miocene, Earth really was the planet of the apes.
As many as 100 different ape species roamed the Old World, from France to China in Eurasia and from Kenya to Namibia in Africa.
I thought the "missing link" was somewhere between apes and humans...
Yes, they describe this as a missing link. So I take it there is more than one gap in the fossil record?
I would think it's just the brit senationalist press calling it that for fun. But I think the real so-called "missing link" is elsewhere in the chain.
And the "missing link" chain is now, what, about a mile long? But, there is room for more.
Since humans are apes how could there be a missing link such as you thought?
Humans are primates, not apes, although I've seen some people who would make you wonder...
Looks to me like a picture of Hillary speaking.
They had to call it a "missing link" to promote Darwinism. It is not a missing link and it is an ape not half ape half man. See my tag line.
EVERYTHING is called "the missing link" - - it's how vain scientists get their names in the journals and troll for grant money.
Modern humans are a sub-species within that family.
We are apes of the primate order.
Species: H. sapiens
Subspecies: H. s. sapiens
Teaches me to drunk post.
Thanks for that. I've never understood it. How many "kingdoms" are there, anyway? How many classes, etc.? Do you know of a website where it's all spelled out in a simple straightforward way so a complete beginner can understand it? Thanks.
I am NOT an ape!!!!(though I have been told I have the taqble manners of one)
OK, so in which family, if not Hominidae, do you claim to be?
The Linneaen system is actually outdated at the moment, but I think that you can say with pretty high confidence that there are 3 "kingdoms": Archaea, Bacteria, and Eukaryota. And then there are the viruses, but nobody's really sure just what the hell they are or where they came from, because they evolve so quickly.
The most up-to-date website, although it claims not to be comprehensive in any regard, is the NCBI Taxonomy site: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/Taxonomy/Browser/wwwtax.cgi?mode=Root. But if you're a complete beginner, then the best place to go exploring is the Tree of Life: http://tolweb.org
Ok. What makes you not an ape?
Oh, thanks for those! The TolWeb site looks just right for me at the moment (although I think I'll eventually spend lots of time at both): Lots of footnotes and links to other sites, which I always appreciate. This stuff has always been confusing to me. Thanks again. Cheers!
Of course. And I don't think that I necessarily agree that gibbons warrant inclusion into the popular definition of "ape" simply because they lack a tail. Although they are brachiating primates. This is what makes classification of life so difficult. There is no clear differentiation point between anything in life. What's a gene? What's an organism? What's life?
I often wonder how different the human world would be today if we weren't separated from our nearest extant species by more than 4 million years. That is one of the only things that makes us unique genetically.
Thereis nothing to indicate this is anything other than an ape.
All it is, is bone buried in rock layers laid down by water.
That's all we can PROVE.
You're welcome. I actually love to just play around with the NCBI taxonomy website. The history of life really is not what you would expect simply by looking at things.
Since it seems like you like this kind of stuff, I'll give you another thing that I like to play around with (but you will have to do a little research on your own to know how to use it). The clustalW site (http://www.ebi.ac.uk/clustalw/) can give you the approximate taxonomic relationship between whatever sequences you enter into it. For example, I think the last time I did it, I used Rag (recombination activating gene), because it was a gene that I was working on.
I looked up the Rag gene sequence (on NCBI) from a few mammals, and plugged it into ClustalW. The comparisons of this one relatively short sequence (a few thousand nucleotides) almost entirely matched up with the taxonomy that thousands of people have worked on their entire lives. And that will be true for whatever gene you pick to plug into ClustalW. This is not something that only biologists can do. You can prove to yourself, without giving the ClustalW program any indication of which organism is which, how the tree of life has worked itself out.
Actually, apes belong to the Pongid family. Apes do not belong to the Hominid family.
Sorry. I just assumed you to be human.
That is a long out-of-date (50 years ago long) view of primates. Right now, there is no pongid family. The ponginae are the subfamily to which orangutans belong. In fact, as it is understood now, Pan troglodytes (chimps, which are obviously apes) belong to the same family, subfamily, and tribe as humans. (that would be Hominidae, Homininae, and Hominini)
["Sorry. I just assumed you to be human."]
You are the one claiming to be an ape, not me. I am a human, the same as other humans, who are created in the image of God.
If you want to call yourself an ape, because you see some resemblence there, who am I to argue? This is America, after all.
You can call yourself giraffe, for all I care, just don't include the rest of us.
How long, do you suppose, before someone posts that tree of life thingy?
A. - Subfamily Ponginae
Bornean Orangutan, Pongo pygmaeus
Pongo pygmaeus pygmaeus
Pongo pygmaeus morio
Pongo pygmaeus wurmbii
Sumatran Orangutan, Pongo abelii
B. - Subfamily Homininae
1. - Tribe Gorillini
a. - Genus Gorilla
Western Gorilla, Gorilla gorilla
Western Lowland Gorilla, Gorilla gorilla gorilla
Cross River Gorilla, Gorilla gorilla diehli
Eastern Gorilla, Gorilla beringei
Mountain Gorilla, Gorilla beringei beringei
Eastern Lowland Gorilla, Gorilla beringei graueri
2. - Tribe Hominini
a. - Genus Pan
Common Chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes
Central Chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes troglodytes
West African Chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes verus
Nigerian Chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes vellerosus
Eastern Chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii
Bonobo (Pygmy Chimpanzee), Pan paniscus
b. - Genus Homo
Human, Homo sapiens sapiens
I did a quick check and there appears to be some controversy over how to arrange the taxonomy.
I'm dubious about your characterization of my statement as "long out-of-date".
well, they got the early picture in the first post now...a new one, too...(yawn)...
cogit, ergo sum?
If you will notice, missing link is in quotes, indicating it is being used in a colloquial manner. It is the same as when I use the term esteemed news media or esteemed politicians.
Of course you won't remember everything and there will be gaps - ie. "missing links" between some of your activities.
Does this mean that you really didn't do ANY of those activities yesterday? I think you would say "no - of course I did them - I just can't remember what I did in between"
And this is with things you did in the past 24 hours!!!
Does this make all of the things you DID remember and put on the list "wrong"?? Did yesterday not exist for you because of "gaps in the record"??
Now, try the same activity for a week ago - a year ago.
Massive amounts of gaps, -eh?? But, the things you DO remember actually did happen.
Now, imagine applying the same logic to bones that only RARELY fossilize and are even more rarely found.
Of COURSE there are going to be gaps. And, little by little, finds are made that start to creat a better picture. Like your memory of one year ago, some gaps will never be filled - others will be filled in great detail showing minute chanages over time..
"Gaps" don't invalidate what happened in the past.
There's some controversy over what to call the taxonomy. There is virtually no controversy over what the taxonomy actually is. Which is that chimpanzees and humans are more closely related than gorillas and chimpanzees. And if chimps and gorillas are apes, then so are we. Maybe you'd object less if we called chimps, gorillas and humans "hominids" rather than "apes."
Because we have molecular (which is considered much more highly reliable, in the short term - eg, <100 mya) rather than simply morphological/behavioral evidence now.
What is the qualitative difference in human/chimp thinking? We're both self-aware.
Yes, folks. We can make all these speculations but we have no clue whether it is even male or female.
They found a monkey. This is news?
I wonder how they know that these are not just the "elephant man" equivalents for monkeys?
Out of all the old monkey bones they dig up, they finally find a freak and automatically it's thought to belong to a species of it's own?
Like the deformed dolphin recently, that "proved" dolphins evolved from 4-legged land animals.
People see what they want to see.
They found an ape apparently :)
How interesting! Now I know :-).
That critter's got a nice set of choppers, doesn't he? Wow.
For anyone who needs a conversation piece :)