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Keywords:

  • fossil hominoids;
  • great apes;
  • Dryopithecus;
  • Hispanopithecus;
  • Pierolapithecus;
  • Gorilla;
  • Europe;
  • Middle Miocene;
  • magnetostratigraphy

Abstract

A well-preserved 11.8-million-years-old lower face attributed to the seminal taxon Dryopithecus fontani (Primates, Hominidae) from the Catalan site ACM/C3-Ae of the Hostalets de Pierola area (Vallès-Penedès Basin, Catalonia, NE Spain) is described. The new data indicate that D. fontani is distinct at the genus level from Late Miocene European taxa previously attributed to Dryopithecus, which are here reassigned to Hispanopithecus. The new facial specimen also suggests that D. fontani and the Middle Miocene Pierolapithecus catalaunicus are not synonymous. Anatomical and morphometric analyses further indicate that the new specimen shows a combination of lower facial features—hitherto unknown in Miocene hominoids—that resembles the facial pattern of Gorilla, thus providing the first nondental evidence of gorilla-like lower facial morphology in the fossil record. Considering the current evidence, the gorilla-like facial pattern of D. fontani is inferred to be derived relative to previously known stem hominids, and might indicate that this taxon is either an early member of the Homininae or, alternatively, a stem hominid convergent with the lower facial pattern of Gorilla. The biogeographic implications of both alternatives are discussed. This new finding in the Hostalets de Pierola section reinforces the importance of this area for understanding the elusive question of the Middle Miocene origin and early radiation of great apes. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.