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Miocene - Griphopithecus: A Hominid Primate

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  • Neal Robbins
    Griphopithecus was a genus of hominid primates that lived during the Miocene. Fossil remains of them have been found in Germany, Slovakia, and Turkey. Remains
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 1, 2008
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      Griphopithecus was a genus of hominid primates that lived during the Miocene. Fossil remains of them have been found in Germany, Slovakia, and Turkey.
      Remains of Griphopithecus suessi were discovered at Sandberg in Slovakia. They were unearthed in strata dating to an interval of MN 6 - MN 7 + 8 (13.7 - 11.1 million years ago). [Note - The source of this information is The Paleobiology Database.]
      Peter Holec and Robert J. Emry wrote an article titled Another Molar of the Miocene Homid Griphopithecus suess from the Type Locality at Sandberg. It was published in November, 2003, in the Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, Volume 279, Issue 1, pp. 625-623. This quote from the abstract says:

      A recently discovered tooth of the hominid primate Griphopithecus suessi Abel, 1902 is only the fifth tooth known of the species, and the first upper M3. All five teeth are from the locality known as Sandberg near Devinska Nov Ves (formerly known as Neudorf an der March), in the northwestern suburban part of Bratislava, Slovakia. The deposit in which the locality occurs is a transgressive sequence of nearshore marine sediments that are Upper Badenian in terms of the central Paratethyan marine biostratigraphy. The locality has also yielded a land mammal fauna of modest diversity that corresponds to earliest MN6 of the European land mammal biochronology. As earliest MN6, Griphopithecus suessi is among the earliest known hominids in Europe. Since Abel's description in 1902, the species has had a peripatetic taxonomic and nomenclatural history, but most recently was returned to Abel's genus Griphopithecus, which requires that it also be returned to
      Abel's species G. suessi, the type species of the genus.

      However, it is important to point out that a molar found in Germany is most likely a Griphopithecus tooth. Peter Andrews and Terry Harrison state that point in this excerpt of The Last Common Ancestor of Apes and Humans:

      The earliest ape from Eurasia is a single tooth attributed to Griphopithecus from Engelswie in southern Germany (Heizmann 1992); Andrews et al. 1996; Heizmann and Begun 2001).

      This excerpt has information about the species Griphopithecus alpani:
      [Note - Fossil remains of Griopithecus alpani have been found in Turkey.]
      The lower jaw of Griphopithecus alpani is robust, like that of Kenyapithecus, and the symphysis of the lower jaw is similar in having a large inferior torus, but the upper rows are less robust, and the incisors, canines, and premolars are most similar to those of Equatorius africanus.

      David R. Begun et al. wrote an article titled Middle Miocene Hominoid Origins. It was published in 2000 in Science 287, 2375. This excerpt says:

      Ward et al. (1) ably show that samples of thickly enameled Middle Miocene hominoids that they attribute to a new genus, Equatorius are distinct from Kenyapithecus. They fail to show, however, that Equatorius differs from Griphopithecus. In so doing, they may have missed the hominoid connection between Eurasia and Africa by 2 to 3 million years.
      The authors note the presence of a well developed buccal cingulum on the type specimen of G. darwini, an M2 from Devinska Nova Ves, Slovakia, that they say distinguishes this taxon from Equatorius. Samples from Pasalar and Candir in Turkey that have been assigned to G. alpani, however, show that M2 cingulum expression is variable in Griphopithecus; indeed, specimens of these samples are quite similar to M2 specimens of Equatorius. In addition, the upper molars of G. darwini lack well-defined lingual cingula. This is probably a shared derived characters with other thickly enameled Middle Miocene hominoids, and distinguishes Griphopithecus and the Maboko and Kipsaramon samples from early Miocene forms. Nothing in the diagnosis of Equatorius excludes most of the specimens currently attributed to G. darwini or G. alpini; the portions of the diagnosis of Equatorius that can be compared to the current hypodigm of Griphopithecus could apply just as well to
      it.

      Neal Robbins

      P.S. The taxonomy of Griphopithecus is:

      Kingdom: Animalia
      Phylum: Chordata
      Class: Mammalia
      Order: Primates
      Superfamily: Hominoidea
      Family: Hominidae
      Subfamily: Ponginae
      Genus: Griphopithecus
      The species are:

      Griphopithecus suessi
      G. alpani
      G. darwini
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