Dietary specialization during the evolution of Western Eurasian hominoids and the extinction of European great apes

Daniel DeMiguel, David M. Alba, Salvador Moyà-Solà

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Given the central adaptive role of diet, paleodietary inference is essential for understanding the relationship between evolutionary and paleoenvironmental change. Here we rely on dental microwear analysis to investigate the role of dietary specialization in the diversification and extinction of Miocene hominoids from Western Eurasian between 14 and 7 Ma. New microwear results for five extinct taxa are analyzed together with previous data for other Western Eurasian genera. Except Pierolapithecus (that resembles hard-object feeders) and Oreopithecus (a soft-frugivore probably foraging opportunistically on other foods), most of the extinct taxa lack clear extant dietary analogues. They display some degee of sclerocarpy, which is most clearly expressed in Griphopithecus and Ouranopithecus (adapted to more open and arid environments), whereas Anoiapithecus, Dryopithecus and, especially, Hispanopithecus species apparently relied more strongly on soft-frugivory. Thus, contrasting with the prevailing sclerocarpic condition at the beginning of the Eurasian hominoid radiation, soft- and mixed-frugivory coexisted with hard-object feeding in the Late Miocene. Therefore, despite a climatic trend towards cooling and increased seasonality, a progressive dietary diversification would have occurred (probably due to competitive exclusion and increased environmental heterogeneity), although strict folivory did not evolve. Overall, our analyses support the view that the same dietary specializations that enabled Western Eurasian hominoids to face progressive climatic deterioration were the main factor ultimately leading to their extinction when more drastic paleoenvironmental changes took place. © 2014 DeMiguel et al.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere97442
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume9
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 21 May 2014

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