|"The Mystery Ape" of Chinese Paleontology|
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Jianshi--Earliest Extra-African Hominin, Further Evidence of Late Occurring Lufengpithecus or Fossil Orangutan?
“Description and Diagnosis: Larger than most subspecies of fossil and living Pongo pygmaeus (see figs. 9-11), but differs from all known populations of P. pygmaeus in lacking significant crenulation on the occlusal surfaces of the molars and upper premolars, and on the basins of the lower premolars. Incisors are not known. Molar cusp disposition similar to that of P. pygmaeus, but the cusps themselves are puffier and more rounded occlusally as well as on their external slopes. The occlusal surfaces are thus more poorly defined, and the occlusal basins are more constricted. Discussion: The characters of the molars listed above distinguish these teeth very markedly from those of Pongo pygmaeus, and give them a very distinctive "gestalt." While it does appear that this new form belongs in the same general clade as the extant orangutan, it is by no means clear on the basis of current evidence that the two are very closely related. Pending better material, we feel a conservative interpretation is most appropriate, and have thus allocated this dentally distinctive primate to its own species of Pongo. It may well turn out, however, that the relationship between the two species is more distant than this implies, and it is possible that a separate generic designation for hooijeri will ultimately be warranted.”
|Occlusal views of UM1s a) Jianshi b) Australopithecus c) ZKD H. erectus d) Sangiran H.erectus e) modern Chinese|
|Right Lower M1 or M2 (TK 65/123), Right Lower M1 or M2 (Jianshi PA 1277), Longgupo Right Lower M1 (not to scale).|
|Original Jianshi lower molars compared to Pongo lower molar from Tham Khuyen Cave Vietnam (center). Note median placement of longitudinal fissure and alignment of transverse fissures in all specimens (not to scale).|
|Original Jianshi lower molars compared to Lufengpithecus hudienensis from Yuanmou Basin, Yunnan and a specimen from Mohui originally described as "hominid" (not to scale).|
Given the ambiguous nature of hominoid dentitions from the Mio-Plio-Pleistocene of East Asia the issues discussed above cannot be resolved until more diagnostic material is recovered.
The mystery ape of Pleistocene Asia
- Russell L. Ciochon is chair of anthropology at the University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa 52242, USA. This Essay is based on a contribution to the book Out of Africa I: Who, When and Where? (eds, Fleagle, J. G. et al. Springer, 2009).
More than a decade later, with some distance from the subject, the teeth looked distinctly more ape-like.
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