Afropithecus

afropithecus
The skull of Afropithecus (Afarensis).

Name:

Afropithecus (Greek for "African ape"); pronounced AFF-roe-pith-ECK-us

Habitat:

Jungles of Africa

Historical Epoch:

Middle Miocene (17 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About five feet tall and 100 pounds

Diet:

Fruits and seeds

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Large size; relatively long snout with large teeth

 

About Afropithecus

Paleontologists are still trying to sort out the complicated relationships of the early African hominids of the Miocene epoch, which were some of the first true apes on the prehistoric primate evolutionary tree.

Afropithecus, discovered in 1986 by the famous mother-and-son team of Mary and Richard Leakey, testifies to the ongoing confusion: this tree-dwelling ape had some anatomical features in common with the better-known Proconsul, and it also seems to have been closely related to Sivapithecus as well (a genus to which Ramapithecus has now been assigned as a separate species). Unfortunately, Afropithecus isn't as well attested, fossil-wise, as these other hominids; we do know from its scattered teeth that it fed on tough fruits and seeds, and it seems to have walked like a monkey (on four feet) rather than an ape (on two feet, at least some of the time).