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Keywords:

  • paleoprimatology;
  • evolution;
  • Hominoidea;
  • Hominidae;
  • great apes

Abstract

Currently restricted to Southeast Asia and Africa, extant hominoids are the remnants of a group that was much more diverse during the Miocene. Apes initially diversified in Africa during the early Miocene, but by the middle Miocene they extended their geographical range into Eurasia, where they experienced an impressive evolutionary radiation. Understanding the role of Eurasian hominoids in the origin and evolution of the great-ape-and-human clade (Hominidae) is partly hampered by phylogenetic uncertainties, the scarcity and incompleteness of fossil remains, the current restricted diversity of the group, and pervasive homoplasy. Nevertheless, scientific knowledge of the Eurasian hominoid radiation has significantly improved during the last decade. In the case of Western Europe, this has been due to the discovery of new remains from the Vallès-Penedès Basin (Catalonia, Spain). Here, I review the fossil record of Vallès-Penedès apes and consider its implications. Although significant disagreements persist among scholars, some important lessons can be learned regarding the evolutionary history of the closest living relatives of humans. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.