(2009a): First partial face and upper dentition of the Middle Miocene hominoid Dryopithecus
fontani from Abocador de Can Mata (Valles-Penedes Basin, Catalonia, NE Spain): taxonomic and phylogenetic implications.
A number of lower-body features indicate that Dryopithecus favored climbing and swinging from one tree branch to another at a fairly slow pace, much in the fashion of modern orangutans, the Spanish researchers contend.
Moya-Sola and Koehler theorize that a common ancestor of all later apes and hominids existed well before Dryopithecus first appeared in Europe 12 million years ago.
In that case, Asian apes would have descended from Dryopithecus, evolving bodies built for slow climbing and hanging from branches, the scientists hold, whereas African apes veered toward a four-legged gait on the ground and hominids adopted an upright stance.
Remarks: A partial face of an adult male individual from ACM/C3-Ae (11.9 Ma, MN7 or MN8, late Aragonian) was attributed to Dryopithecus fontani by Moya-Sola et al.
Some authors (Begun, 2009; Begun et al., 2012) remain skeptical on the taxonomic distinctiveness of Pierolapithecus from Dryopithecus, but this is contradicted by several differences in craniodental morphology (Moya-Sola et al., 2004, 2009a), including the possession of much thicker-enameled molars in Pierolapithecus (Alba et al., 2010b; contra Begun, 2009).
As for Pierolapithecus, doubts have been raised regarding the distinct taxonomic status of Anoiapithecus relative to Dryopithecus (Begun, 2009; Begun et al., 2012).
7 Nature, the two investigators offer a theory of how Dryopithecus evolved.
Controversy over the evolution of Dryopithecus will undoubtedly continue, assert Lawrence Martin of the State University of New York at Stony Brook and Peter Andrews of the Natural History Museum in London.
Most attributes shared by gorillas and Dryopithecus also show up on specimens of Ouranopithecus, another ancient ape (SN: 6/23/90, p.390), he adds.
"The jury is still out" regarding much of the facial anatomy of Dryopithecus, Ward cautions.