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)
A new Pliocene-age hominid-bearing study area from the central
Afar region of Ethiopia has just been announced by Y. Haile-Selassie,
A. Deino, B. Saylor, M. Umer, and B. Latimer (Haile-Selassie et
al. (2007) Preliminary geology and paleontology of new hominid-bearing
Pliocene localities in the central Afar region of Ethiopia. Anthropological
Science 115: 215-222).
The finds include over 1000 vertebrate specimens from 17 localities.
Among these specimens are, “more than 20 fossil hominid craniodental
and postcranial remains, including one partial skeleton, of Pliocene
age (3.53.8 Ma)” (215). Preliminary research on the geology and
paleontology of the area indicates a relatively closed woodland
with a paleo-river system (215).
authors expect these new finds to contribute to our understanding
of the evolution and phylogenetic relationships of Australopithecus
anamensis and Australopithecus afarensis (220).
tuned to the newsfeed for future updates from this new study area.
excavation at Korsi Dora (Image: Y. Haile-Selassie et al.,
2007, Figure 3)
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)
An aerial exploration of south Narok upper Miocene sites in Kenya
was undertaken by Dr. E. Mbua and Dr. L. Hlusko, Dr. C. Nyamai,
and Mr. Kyule of the National Museum of Kenya, the University of
California at Berkeley, and Nairobi University, respectively. A
plane was chartered to survey exposures north of Suswa, along the
Ewaso Ngiro River, and south of Lemudong'o.
Dr. Y. Haile-Selassie has completed exploration in the Afar Rift.
Geological and paleontological investigation took place in the Woranso-Bedena
area and the Denki Lafa area. Haile-Selassie and his team collected
stratigraphic data and observed fossils in both areas, and suggest
Neogene ages. The team plans to go back to the area in 2005.