Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Most recent European great ape discovered

Date:
January 17, 2012
Source:
Universitaet Tübingen
Summary:
Based on a hominid molar, scientists from Germany, Bulgaria and France have documented that great apes survived in Europe in savannah-like landscapes until seven million years ago.

Professor Madelaine Böhme (right) and geologist Philipe Havlik at the archeological site near Chirpan/Bulgaria.
Credit: Image courtesy of Prof. Madelaine Böhme

Based on a hominid molar, scientists from Germany, Bulgaria and France have documented that great apes survived in Europe in savannah-like landscapes until seven million years ago.

A seven million year old pre-molar of a hominid discovered near the Bulgarian town of Chirpan documents that great apes survived longer in Europe than previously believed. An international team of scientists from the Bulgarian Academy of Science, the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, and Madelaine Böhme from the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Paleoenvironment at the University of Tübingen was involved in the project. The new discovery may cause a revision in our understanding of some major steps in hominid evolution.

To date scientists have assumed that great apes went extinct in Europe at least 9 million years ago because of changing climatic and environmental conditions. Under the direction of Nikolai Spassov from the National Museum of Natural Science in Sofia, Bulgaria, the molar was discovered in Upper Miocene fluvial sediments near Chirpan. The morphology and the great thickness of the tooth enamel point to a hominid fossil. The age of the fossiliferous sands at 7 million years reveals the fossil to be most recent known great ape from continental Europe.

Until now, the most recent fossil was that of a 9.2 million year old specimen of Ouranopithecus macedonensis from Greece. Hominids therefore were thought to have disappeared from Europe prior to 9 million years ago. At this time, European terrestrial ecosystems had been changed from mostly evergreen and lush forests to savannah-like landscapes with a seasonal climate. It had been thought that great apes, which typically consume fruits, were unable to survive this change due to a seasonal deficiency of fruits.

The scientists found animals typical of a savannah in the fossil-bearing layer: several species of elephants, giraffes, gazelles, antelopes, rhinos, and saber-toothed cats. This discovery suggests that European hominids were able to adapt to the seasonal climate of a savannah-like ecosystem. This conclusion is further corroborated by electron microscope analysis of the tooth's masticatory surface, which reveals that the Bulgarian hominid had consumed hard and abrasive objects like grass, seeds, and nuts. In this respect, the feeding behavior of this animal resembles that of later African hominids from about 4 million years ago (e.g. australopithecids like 'Lucy').

„We now also need to rethink where the origin of humans took place," says Professor Madelaine Böhme of the University of Tübingen. So far, most scientists believe that human evolution happened exclusively in Africa and that humans migrated from Africa to other continents. "There is increasing evidence, however, that a significant part of human evolution happened outside Africa, in Europe and western Asia."

That migration plays a major role in early hominid evolution was documented by paleontologists from the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Paleoenvironment in June 2011, when they presented an early Eurasian hominid. A further piece to the puzzle had furthermore been an isolated molar tooth excavated southwest of Sigmaringen, Germany, and dated to 17 million years ago. The Tübingen group of paleoclimatologists led by Böhme reconstructed the climate at this time and demonstrated that great apes dispersed at this time under a tropical-subtropical and humid climate from Africa into Europe. Together, both investigations document an at least 10 million year lasting population of great apes in Europe and a significant evolution from fruit-eaters to harder object feeders.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Universitaet Tübingen. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. N. Spassov, D. Geraads, L. Hristova, G.N. Markov, G. Merceron, T. Tzankov, K. Stoyanov, M. Böhme, A. Dimitrova. A hominid tooth from Bulgaria: The last pre-human hominid of continental Europe. Journal of Human Evolution, 2012; 62 (1): 138 DOI: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2011.10.008

Cite This Page:

Universitaet Tübingen. "Most recent European great ape discovered." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 January 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120113210347.htm>.
Universitaet Tübingen. (2012, January 17). Most recent European great ape discovered. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120113210347.htm
Universitaet Tübingen. "Most recent European great ape discovered." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120113210347.htm (accessed April 17, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Great British Farmland Boom

The Great British Farmland Boom

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 17, 2014) — Britain's troubled Co-operative Group is preparing to cash in on nearly 18,000 acres of farmland in one of the biggest UK land sales in decades. As Ivor Bennett reports, the market timing couldn't be better, with farmland prices soaring over 270 percent in the last 10 years. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Flamingo Frenzy Ahead of Zoo Construction

Flamingo Frenzy Ahead of Zoo Construction

AP (Apr. 17, 2014) — With plenty of honking, flapping, and fluttering, more than three dozen Caribbean flamingos at Zoo Miami were rounded up today as the iconic exhibit was closed for renovations. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 16, 2014) — Crocodile farming has been a challenge in Zimbabwe in recent years do the economic collapse and the financial crisis. But as Ciara Sutton reports one of Europe's biggest suppliers of skins to the luxury market has come up with an unusual survival strategy - vegetarian food. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) — A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard suggests even casual marijuana use can alter your brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins