Most Recent European Great Ape Discovered
ScienceDaily (Jan. 13, 2012) — 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)
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.
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Journal of Human Evolution
Vol. 62 Issue, January 2012, Pages 138-145
A hominid tooth from Bulgaria: The last pre-human hominid of continental Europe
Original Research Article
N. Spassov, D. Geraads, L. Hristova, G.N. Markov, G. Merceron, T. Tzankov, K. Stoyanov, M. Böhme, A. Dimitrova
A hominid upper premolar was discovered in the Azmaka quarry, near Chirpan (Bulgaria). The associated fauna, especially the co-occurrence of Choerolophodon and Anancus among the proboscideans, and Cremohipparion matthewi and Hippotherium brachypus among the hipparions, constrains the age of the locality to the second half of the middle Turolian (ca. 7 Ma), making it the latest pre-human hominid of continental Europe and Asia Minor. The available morphological and metric data are more similar to those of Ouranopithecus from the Vallesian of Greece than to those of the early to middle Turolian hominids of Turkey and Georgia, but the time gap speaks against a direct phyletic link, and Turolian migration from the east cannot be rejected.