In that case, Asian apes would have descended from Dryopithecus, evolving bodies built for slow climbing and hanging from branches, the scientists hold, whereas African apes veered toward a four-legged gait on the ground and hominids adopted an upright stance.
The Spanish Dryopithecus find indeed shows some similarities to orangutans, but its evolutionary position cannot yet be firmly established, assert Peter Andrews of the Natural History Museum in London and David Pilbeam of Harvard University in an accompanying commentary.
For example, the body proportions of the new Dryopithecus specimen closely resemble the proportions of African apes, Pilbeam argues.
The Harvard investigator also argues that the shape of Sivapithecus arm bones differs substantially from those of Dryopithecus, indicating no direct evolutionary relationship between these ancient apes.
As for Pierolapithecus, doubts have been raised regarding the distinct taxonomic status of Anoiapithecus relative to Dryopithecus (Begun, 2009; Begun et al.
Subsequently, Hispanopithecus was treated as a junior subjective synonym of Dryopithecus by many authors (Szalay and Delson, 1979; Moya Sola et al.
Although initial finds were assigned to Hispanopithecus laietanus, after the recovery of more abundant material, Dryopithecus crusafonti was distinguished (Begun, 1992); it was recently transferred to the genus Hispanopithecus by Moya-Sola et al.
2010b): Enamel thickness in Middle Miocene great apes Anoiapithecus, Pierolapithecus and Dryopithecus.
2001a): Eurasian hominoid evolution in the light of recent Dryopithecus findings.
Controversy over the evolution of Dryopithecus
will undoubtedly continue, assert Lawrence Martin of the State University of New York at Stony Brook and Peter Andrews of the Natural History Museum in London.
The jury is still out" regarding much of the facial anatomy of Dryopithecus, Ward cautions.
Dryopithecus specimens from Rudabanya, which continue to emerge in ongoing excavations, offer insight into key areas of anatomical variation among apes and hominids, he says.