The reconstructed cranium of and the evolution of the great ape face.

Bibliographic Collection: 
Publication Type: Journal Article
Authors: Pugh, Kelsey D; Catalano, Santiago A; Pérez de los Ríos, Miriam; Fortuny, Josep; Shearer, Brian M; Vecino Gazabón, Alessandra; Hammond, Ashley S; Moyà-Solà, Salvador; Alba, David M; Almécija, Sergio
Year of Publication: 2023
Journal: Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A
Volume: 120
Issue: 44
Pagination: e2218778120
Date Published: 2023 Oct 31
Publication Language: eng
ISSN: 1091-6490

(~12 million years ago, northeastern Spain) is key to understanding the mosaic nature of hominid (great ape and human) evolution. Notably, its skeleton indicates that an orthograde (upright) body plan preceded suspensory adaptations in hominid evolution. However, there is ongoing debate about this species, partly because the sole known cranium, preserving a nearly complete face, suffers from taphonomic damage. We 1) carried out a micro computerized tomography (CT) based virtual reconstruction of the cranium, 2) assessed its morphological affinities using a series of two-dimensional (2D) and three-dimensional (3D) morphometric analyses, and 3) modeled the evolution of key aspects of ape face form. The reconstruction clarifies many aspects of the facial morphology of . Our results indicate that it is most similar to great apes (fossil and extant) in overall face shape and size and is morphologically distinct from other Middle Miocene apes. Crown great apes can be distinguished from other taxa in several facial metrics (e.g., low midfacial prognathism, relatively tall faces) and only some of these features are found in , which is most consistent with a stem (basal) hominid position. The inferred morphology at all ancestral nodes within the hominoid (ape and human) tree is closer to great apes than to hylobatids (gibbons and siamangs), which are convergent with other smaller anthropoids. Our analyses support a hominid ancestor that was distinct from all extant and fossil hominids in overall facial shape and shared many features with . This reconstructed ancestral morphotype represents a testable hypothesis that can be reevaluated as new fossils are discovered.

DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2218778120
Alternate Journal: Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A