Prehistoric apes such as those described on this page are of especial interest as possible human ancestors, or as the relatives of human ancestors. Some of these animals, such as Dryopithecus, were in existence long before the time of the early hominids. Others, such as Gigantopithecus, the largest primate known, were the contemporaries of early human beings.
The fossils of these apes, as well as those of all other ancient primates, are exceedingly rare, because the warm forest environments in which primates typically reside are not conducive to the process of fossilization. Under such conditions the remains of most animals decompose completely long before fossilization can occur. So the remains that have been recovered are mostly from the most durable portion of the skeleton, the jaws and teeth.
Dryopithecines are Old World anthropoid apes known from fossils of Miocene and Pliocene age. They were first named by the French geologist Éduoard Lartet, who in 1856 described the remains of an ape he had found in Miocene strata at Saint-Gaudens in the Haute Garonne department of southern France. These prehistoric apes, which were generally similar to modern chimpanzees and gorillas, were forest dwellers. Because the remains of oaks were common in… Read on >>
The huge ape Gigantopithecus was the largest primate that ever lived, at least to the knowledge of modern science. Huge, it weighed up to 1,200 lbs (540 kg) and stood 10 feet (~3 meters) tall. This ape, often called "Giganto," lived long ago in the jungles of southeast Asia and is now known only from fossils. It was first discovered in 1935 by… Read on >>
Researchers who recently discovered the fossilized remains of an 11.9-million-year-old ape in Spain assigned it the name Pierolapithecus catalaunicus. It was first described by a team of paleoanthropologists led by Salvador Moyà-Solà (Moyà-Solà. et al. 2004), who have argued that this ape could be the last common ancestor of the great apes -- chimpanzees, orangutans, bonobos, and gorillas -- as well as of humans… Read on >>
Aegyptopithecus was an Oligocene primate, the remains of which were discovered in 1965 by paleontologist Elwyn L. Simons in the Fayum Formation of northwestern Egypt. It is widely believed to be ancestral to monkeys and hominoid apes. The name means "Egyptian ape," but in size and structure… Read on >>
The seven-million-year-old fragments of bone on which this taxon is based were found in 2001. They were initially described as belonging to the oldest known hominid (Brunet et al. 2002), but are now deemed to represent the mortal remains of a Miocene ape. In fact,… Read on >>
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Branches of Biology