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Proc Biol Sci. 2010 Jul 22;277(1691):2237-45. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2010.0218. Epub 2010 Mar 24.

Enamel thickness in the Middle Miocene great apes Anoiapithecus, Pierolapithecus and Dryopithecus.

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Institut Català de Paleontologia, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Edifici ICP, Campus de la UAB s/n, 08193 Cerdanyola del Vallès, Barcelona, Spain.


On the basis of industrial computed tomography, relative enamel thickness (RET) is computed in three Middle Miocene (ca 11.9-11.8 Ma) hominoids from Abocador de Can Mata (Vallès-Penedès Basin, Catalonia, Spain): Pierolapithecus catalaunicus from BCV1 and Anoiapithecus brevirostris from C3-Aj, interpreted as stem hominids; and Dryopithecus fontani from C3-Ae of uncertain phylogenetic affinities. Pierolapithecus displays an average RET value of 19.5, Anoiapithecus of 18.6 and Dryopithecus of 10.6. The thick-enamelled condition of Pierolapithecus and Anoiapithecus is also characteristic of afropithecids, including the more derived kenyapithecins from the early Middle Miocene of Eurasia (Griphopithecus and Kenyapithecus). Given the presence of other dentognathic and craniofacial similarities, thick enamel may be interpreted as a symplesiomorphy of the Hominidae (the great ape and human clade), which would have been later independently modified along several lineages. Given the correlation between thick enamel and hard-object feeding, our results suggest that thick enamel might have been the fundamental adaptation that enabled the out-of-Africa dispersal of great-ape ancestors and their subsequent initial radiation throughout Eurasia. The much thinner enamel of Dryopithecus is difficult to interpret given phylogenetic uncertainties, being either a hominine synapomorphy or a convergently developed feature.

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