(RHOI-supported) Per Prof. G. D. Koufos: The excavations in the localities of Nikiti (Macedonia, Greece)
were continued this summer (June) by a team of palaeontologists of the University
of Thessaloniki, lead by Prof. G. D. Koufos. A large terrestrial turtle
(length=1.60m; breadth=1.20m) has been unearthed from a new late Miocene fossiliferous
site. It was discovered as the bulldozer was working to open the area. Several other
fossils (bovids, equids, giraffids, mastodonts) have been discovered in the known
fossiliferous site of Nikiti-2.
Excavations at Nikiti (Image: G. Koufos)
UNIVERSITY, CONNECTICUT (Contextual)
(RHOI-Supported) The February, 2008 issue of the Yale University
Graduate School newsletter features a profile of the Baynunah Research
Project and the project's leaders, RHOI members Prof. Andrew Hill and
Yale graduate student Faysal Bibi. Working in the emirate of Abu Dhabi,
a multinational team including scholars from Yale and the Abu Dhabi
Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH) are researching the ecology
of the Arabian Penninsula during the late Miocene.
Preliminary fossil finds from Baynunah are described along with details of
survey and collection methods. The article also features the work of Prof. Hill
in helping to develop paleontological infrastructure in the United Arab Emirates.
Check back to this newsfeed for future updates on this important site for Miocene
Bibi (Left) and Hill (Right) at Baynunah (Image: M. Beech/Yale University)
A preliminary report on the recovery of some 2400 vertebrate specimens
from the late Miocene site of Fiume Santo in Sardinia, Italy has
been published by L. Abbazzi, M. Delfino, G. Gallai, L. Trebini,
and L. Rook (Abbazzi et al. (2008) New data on the vertebrate
assemblage of Fiume Santo (North-West Sardinia, Italy), and overview
on the late Miocene Tusco-Sardinian palaeobioprovince. Palaeontology
51:425-451). Included in these specimens are several teeth and
a mandible fragment from the Tusco-Sardinian endemic hominoid
The analysis of the finds at Fiume Santo has resulted in the description
of three new ruminant species, two in new genera (434, 441-443).
The authors compare the new finds with fossil specimens from Tuscany
and continental Europe to add to our knowledge of island endemism
and the evolution and extinction of chronofauna (447).
to monitor this newsfeed for further updates on this important
site for hominoid evolution and paleobiogeography.
teeth of Oreopithecus bambolii (Image: Abbazzi et
al., 2008, Plate 1)
Ouranopithecus turkae, a new ape from the late Miocene
of Turkey, has just been announced by E. Güleç, A. Sevim,
C. Pehlevan, and F. Kaya (Güleç et al. (2007)
A new great ape from the late Miocene of Turkey. Anthropological
Science 115: 153-158). The specimens include a maxilla fragment,
a sub-adult mandible, and an adult partial right mandible (see figure
close comparison of the dentognathic features of these specimens
with other examples of Ouranopithecus (e.g., RPL-56, RPL-128,
and XIR-1) as well as Orrorin, Sahelanthropus,
Ardipithecus, and Australopithecus, the authors
suggest that Ouranopithecus shows “substantial dentognathic
parallelism with Australopithecus” (157). As a result,
Güleç et al. “do not consider these features
of Ouranopithecus to indicate placement within the hominid
(African ape-human) clade” (157).
work at Çorakyerler over the last decade has added substantially
to our understanding of late Miocene ape evolution outside of Africa.
Continue to watch this Newsfeed for future developments.
turkae (Image: E. Gulec et al., 2007, Figure 2)
The Ethio-Japanese Research Team, led by G. Suwa, B. Asfaw and Y.
Beyene, have just announced a new late Miocene ape, Chororapithecus
abyssinicus (Suwa et al. (2007). A new species of
great ape from the late Miocene epoch in Ethiopia. Nature
448(7156): 921-924). The species is described on the basis of 9
teeth, including 1 canine and 8 molars from Chorora, southeastern
Afar rift, Ethiopia.
After careful comparative study, the researchers conclude that Chororapithecus
“was either a primitive form of gorilla, or an independent
branch showing a similar adaption at about the time when the gorilla
line was emerging somewhere else” (from Press Release statement).
If their interpretation is correct, then Chororapithecus
may indicate a human-gorilla split before 10 to 11 Ma. Previous
molecular and DNA studies calibrated to different fossils suggested
an earlier split at ca. 8 Ma. A recalibration based on these fossils
may be required, as discussed in the paper and its supplementary
more fossils can resolve such fundamental puzzles. With any luck,
the late Miocene great ape record will continue to grow. Watch this
Newsfeed for future developments.
abyssinicus (Image: Gen Suwa)
abyssinicus compared with a gorilla (Image: Gen Suwa)
Hispanopithecus laietanus hand morphology and biomechanics
are described in a new paper in the Proceedings of the Royal
Society B: Biological Sciences (v. 274, n. 1624) by S. Almécija,
D. M. Alba, S. Moyà-Solà, and M. Köhler. According
to the authors, this important new specimen, number IPS 18800, from
Can Llobateres, Catalonia, Spain “indicates a unique positional
repertoire, combining orthogrady with suspensory behaviours and
palmigrade quadrupedalism” (2375). They further note that
Hispanopithecus presents a complex mosaic of features such
that a “retention of powerful grasping and palmigrady suggests
that the last common ancestor of hominids might have been more primitive
than what can be inferred on the basis of extant taxa, suggesting
that pronograde behaviours are compatible with an orthograde bodyplan
suitable for climbing and suspension” (2375).
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences)
STATE UNIVERSITY, OHIO
Owen Lovejoy comments on the new Almécija et al. Hispanopithecus
hand paper in the same issue of the Proceedings of the Royal
Society B: Biological Sciences (v. 274, n. 1624). Lovejoy notes
“that even small parts of animals can sometimes reveal a great
deal about how and where they lived” (2373). The hand of Hispanopithecus
indicates that it had relatively short metacarpals for its proposed
body mass, even shorter than in gorillas, while at the same time
having relatively long phalanges, almost as long as in orang-utans.
In addition, the metacrapal heads suggest an ability to extend the
metacarpophalangeal joints. Such a mosaic of features may indicate
a unique morphological ‘step’ in the evolution of modern
Lovejoy cautions that this new morphological information on Hispanopithecus
does not necessarily place it as an evolutionary intermediate. This
ape may in fact represent “a special adaptation that left
no modern descendants” (2374).
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences)
A new middle Miocene hominoid, Pierolapithecus catalaunicus
from Barranc de Can Vila 1, was announced in the November 17, 2004
issue of Science by project co-leaders Salvador Moyà-Solà
and Meike Köhler and colleagues. The type specimen combines
cranial and post-cranial elements, which allowed the researchers
to postulate that this new taxon "is probably close to the
last common ancestor of great apes and humans." The authors
further state that the specimen provides key "evidence that
early great apes are more primitive than inferred from neontological
data, because it associates primitive hominoid and derived great
catalaunicus (Image: AP)
June 2005 the team of Palaeontology from the Aristotle University
of Thessaloniki (Prof. G. D. Koufos, Dr D. Kostopoulos, Dr I. Sylvestrou,
M.Sc T. Vlachou and George Konidaris) excavated in two mammalian
localities (Nikiti-1 and Nikiti-2) of Macedonia, Greece. Nikiti-1
is a locality which yielded Ouranopithecus macedoniensis
and locality Nikiti-2 is situated about 20 m above it and could
probably include the same hominoid. Several interesting fossils
have been found (three hipparion skulls associated with the mandible,
skull of Tragoportax, etc.) which enhances our understanding
of the morphology of the mammalian taxa found. The first remains
of carnivores were also found in Nikiti-2. Among the material found
there is a tusk of about 2.7 m. The material is in preparation.
Fieldwork focused on two localities: Ravin de la Pluie, the type
locality of Ouranopithecus macedoniensis, and Ravin des
Zouaves 5, the type locality of Mesopithecus delsoni. Significant
discoveries include two Ouranopithecus mandibles and several
other well preserved mammal fossils. Systematics work is now underway
on the fossils collected.
Macedonian Hipparion fossil
Year One of the Vallés-Penedés project, led by Drs.
S. Moyá-Solá and M. Köhler focused on the area
of Hostalets de Pierola, Spain. This region has yielded hominoids
from a middle to upper Miocene sequence. Efforts focused on excavation
and survey of Barranc de Can Vila 1 and the Riera de Claret. Paleomagnetic
samples were taken and sites were excavated. Several new sites and
localities were discovered, and collected fossils included a hominoid,
which is currently in press at Science.
ANATOLIAN UPPER MIOCENE, TURKEY
The Anatolian Upper Miocene project, led by Dr. E. Güleç
and Dr. A. Sevim, renewed excavation at the site of Çorakyerler
to gather further evidence of Miocene mammals, including hominoids.
The project also surveyed Late Miocene deposits of the Sivas, Malatya,
Kireshir, and Elazig basins and excavated upper Miocene deposits
in the Sivas Basin. Paleomagnetic samples were analyzed at the Forth
Hofddijk Paleomagnetic Laboratory in the Netherlands.
Fieldwork undertaken in the Samburu Hills area of northern Kenya
by Dr. H. Ishida and Dr. N. Ogihara focused on the Kongia Formation
and located several new fossiliferous outcrops. Numerous fossils
were collected and have been accessioned into the National Museums
of Kenya, where they are currently under study.