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Keywords:

  • Hominid origins;
  • Chimp-human clade;
  • Late Miocene

Abstract

Dryopithecus has been known longer than most fossil primate taxa, but until recently was only represented by fragmentary jaws and isolated teeth. New specimens, including postcrania and relatively complete cranial remains, provide much new evidence on the biology of Dryopithecus and its relations t o other primates. The phylogenetic evidence indicates that Dryopithecus is probably more closely related to the African apes and humans than is Sivapithecus. When compared closely to living forms, Dryopithecus shares more with gorillas. This does not imply a close relationship between Dryopithecus and gorillas, since the similarities between the two are all primitive characters. Instead, it suggests that chimps and humans, which lack these characters, share a series of alternative character states that are derived, and indicative of a close evolutionary relationship between them. Humans probably diverged from a very chimp-like ancestor characterized by much of the ecology and behavior of living chimps, including knuckle-walking. But the earliest humans must have been ecologically quite distinctive, and not very much like any living primate, to account for the dramatic morphological changes that mark human origins. © 1994 Wiley-Liss, Inc.