The vertebral remains of the late Miocene great ape Hispanopithecus laietanus from Can Llobateres 2 (Vallès-Penedès Basin, NE Iberian Peninsula)

Ivette Susanna, David M. Alba, Sergio Almécija, Salvador Moyà-Solà

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19 Citations (Scopus)


Here we describe the vertebral fragments from the partial skeleton IPS18800 of the fossil great ape Hispanopithecus laietanus (Hominidae: Dryopithecinae) from the late Miocene (9.6 Ma) of Can Llobateres 2 (Vallès-Penedès Basin, Catalonia, Spain). The eight specimens (IPS18800.5-IPS18800.12) include a fragment of thoracic vertebral body, three partial bodies and four neural arch fragments of lumbar vertebraes. Despite the retention of primitive features (moderately long lumbar vertebral bodies with slightly concave ventrolateral sides), these specimens display a suite of derived, modern hominoid-like features: thoracic vertebrae with dorsally-situated costal foveae; lumbar vertebrae with non-ventrally-oriented transverse processes originating from a robust pedicle, caudally-long laminae with caudally-oriented spinous process, elliptical end-plates, and moderately stout bodies reduced in length and with no ventral keel. These features, functionally related to orthograde behaviors, are indicative of a broad and shallow thorax with a moderately short and stiff lumbar region in Hispanopithecus. Despite its large body mass (ca. 39-40 kg), its vertebral morphology is more comparable to that of hylobatids and Ateles than to extant great apes. This is confirmed by our morphometric analyses, also indicating that Hispanopithecus most closely resembles Pierolapithecus and Morotopithecus among Miocene apes, whereas Proconsul and Nacholapithecus resemble pronograde monkeys. Only in a few features (craniocaudally short and transversely wide pedicles, transverse processes situated on the pedicle, and slight ventral wedging), Hispanopithecus is more derived towards the extant great ape condition than other Miocene apes. Overall, the vertebral morphology of Hispanopithecus supports previous inferences of an orthograde body plan with suspensory and climbing adaptations. However, given similarities with Ateles and the retention of a longer and more flexible spine than in extant great apes, the Hispanopithecus morphology is also consistent with some degree of above-branch quadrupedalism, as previously inferred from other anatomical regions. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-34
JournalJournal of Human Evolution
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • Dryopithecinae
  • Evolution
  • Hominidae
  • Hominoidea
  • Orthogrady
  • Vertebrae


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