Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Out of Europe????

Bob Holmes of the New Scientist is reporting on a spectacular find in Spain of a 12 million year old primate that seems to show characteristics of both African and European Miocene apes. While the hype level is not as high as it was with Ida, the find raises some questions about where the later hominoids came from. He writes:
The fossil, named Anoiapithecus brevirostris by Salvador Moyà-Solà of the Catalan Institute of Palaeontology in Barcelona, Spain, and his colleagues, dates from a period of human evolution for which the record is very thin. While only the animal's face, jaw and teeth survive, their shape places it within the African hominid lineage that gave rise to gorillas, chimps and humans. However, it also has features of a related group called kenyapithecins.

Moyà-Solà says that A. brevirostris and some similar-looking kenyapithecins lived in Europe shortly after the afrohominid and kenyapithecin lineages split, and so that the divergence itself may have happened there. If he is right, our hominid ancestors lived in Europe and only later migrated to Africa, where modern humans evolved.

Methinks this is a tad premature, since we have Miocene apes on all continents and the remains are not as certainly diagnostic.

It will certainly get people thinking about primate origins in a new way.

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