The facial skeleton of the chimpanzee-human last common ancestor


Samuel N. Cobb, Functional Morphology and Evolution Unit, Hull York Medical School, The University of Hull, Cottingham Road, Hull. HU6 7RX. E:


This review uses the current morphological evidence to evaluate the facial morphology of the hypothetical last common ancestor (LCA) of the chimpanzee/bonobo (panin) and human (hominin) lineages. Some of the problems involved in reconstructing ancestral morphologies so close to the formation of a lineage are discussed. These include the prevalence of homoplasy and poor phylogenetic resolution due to a lack of defining derived features. Consequently the list of hypothetical features expected in the face of the LCA is very limited beyond its hypothesized similarity to extant Pan. It is not possible to determine with any confidence whether the facial morphology of any of the current candidate LCA taxa (Ardipithecus kadabba, Ardipithecus ramidus, Orrorin tugenensis and Sahelanthropus tchadensis) is representative of the LCA, or a stem hominin, or a stem panin or, in some cases, a hominid predating the emergence of the hominin lineage. The major evolutionary trends in the hominin lineage subsequent to the LCA are discussed in relation to the dental arcade and dentition, subnasal morphology and the size, position and prognathism of the facial skeleton.