did hominids evolve in Eurasia?

Glenn R. Morton (grmorton@waymark.net)
Sat, 23 Jan 1999 21:22:24 -0800

There have been some very interesting developments in Anthropology which
have some bearing on the views I have advocated. In fact I find this
evidence to fit very nicely with two predictions I have made concerning the
origin of man. In 1995 (Foundation Fall and Flood 1st ed. p. 131,132) I
suggested that man was created in the Mediterranean region when it was a
dry basin. This is called the Messinian Salinity Crisis after the beds on
Sicily where the first evidence was found. And it was 5.5 myr ago.
In the summer of 1995 I submitted "The Mediteranean Flood" to PSCF and it
was finally published at the end Dec. 1997. I made the same suggestion
there (Dec. 1997, p. 245,247). The second prediction was that mankind
entered Africa immediately after the Flood which I said was the infilling
of the Mediterranean. (FFF, p. 138)What has come out are two different
studies that weakly support my position. The first concerns the Miocene
Apes with regard to their ancestral status.

I first became aware of the new evidence while reading Christopher Wills'
Children of Prometheus, (Reading, Mass, Perseus Books, 1998). Shortly after
this there were some news reports about the hands on a miocene ape. And
then Adam Crowl e-mailed me with a note about the fossil evidence.
Christopher Wills had a short discussion of this evidence. It concerns a
10 million year old ape, Oreopithecus bambolii. He writes:

"Upright posture may not be unique to our own lineage. An ape that lived
ten million years ago on Sardinia, Oreopithecus bambolii, seems to have
acquired similar capabilities, perhaps independently." " Christopher Wills,
The Children of Prometheus, (Reading, Mass: Perseus Books, 1998), p. 156

He referenced an article from the Proc. Natl. Acad. of Sciences, Meike
Kšhler and Salvador Moyˆ-Solˆ "Ape-like or hominid-like? The positional
behavior of Oreopithecus bambolii reconsidered" Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA
Vol. 94, pp. 11747-11750, October 1997

The abstract from the PNAS web site reads,
"Comparative morphological and functional analyses of the skeletal remains
of Oreopithecus bambolii, a hominoid from the Miocene Mediterranean island
of Tuscany-Sardinia (Italy), provides evidence that bipedal activities made
up a significant part of the positional behavior of this primate. The
mosaic pattern of its postcranial morphology is to some degree convergent
with that of Australopithecus and functionally intermediate between apes
and early hominids. Some unique traits could have been selected only under
insular conditions where the absence of predators and the limitation of
trophic resources play a crucial role in mammalian evolution. "

This raises an interesting point. Bipedality has been the sine qua non in
the definition of a hominid! This ape stood 3' 7" tall and weighed 66
pounds. Until 1992, Oreopithecus was the only late Miocene ape that had
left remains of its postcranial skeleton.(see Moya-Sola and Kohler, Nature
379(1996):156-157.) But in 1992, the postcranial remains of Dryopithecus
laietanus were found in Spain and they also showed evidence of an
'orthograde' locomotion. Moya-Sola and Kohler note:

"Several features of the trunk of Dryopithecus suggest adaptation for
orthograde postures. The lumbar vertebrae are proportionally shorter than
those of cercopithecoids and proconsulids. The transverse processes
originate on the pedicle dorsolaterally on the vertebral body, and the
caudally directed spinal process indicate reduced mobility of the lumbar
region. The more dorsally situated costal foveae of the thoracic vertebra
imply a more ventral postion of the spinal column and hence a broad thorax.
The claviccle is proportionally longer than in African apes and comparable
in relative size to the lengths of clavicles of Pongo and Hylobates. This
suggests that the scapula of Dryopithecus was situated dorsally on the
thorax as in extant hominoids, and that the clavicle would have been
oriented more vertically than in African apes, and similar to Pongo and
Hylobates, a character linked to suspensory postures." ~ Salvador Moya-Sola
and Meike Kohler, "A Dryopithecus Skeleton and the origins of Great-Ape
Locomotion," Nature, Jan. 11, 1996, p. 157-158

To further support this hypothesis,Moya-Solas, Kohler and Rook published a
recent Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci, USA article in which they studied the hand
bones of Oreopithecus bambolii. They concluded that the hand of
Dryopithecus was remarkably human-like. The abstract says:

"Functional and allometric analyses of the hand of the late Miocene ape
Oreopithecus bambolii (Tuscany, Italy) reveal a series of features that
reflect an improved grasping capability including firm pad-to-pad precision
gripping that apes are unable to perform. Related features such as hand
length, relative thumb length, a deep and large insertion area for the
tendon of the long thumb flexor, and the form of the metacarpal 2/capitate
articulation are not present in extant or fossil apes. In these features,
the Oreopithecus hand closely matches the pattern of early hominids,
presumably as a response to similar functional demands." Salvador
Moyˆ-Solˆ*,, Meike Kšhler*, and Lorenzo Rook, "Evidence of hominid-like
precision grip capability in the hand of the Miocene ape Oreopithecus,"
PNAS Vol. 96, Issue 1, 313-317, January 5, 1999

So, now we have two of the Miocene apes assuming a more upright stance with
one of them having a rather advanced hand. Given that the earliest hominids
appear to have been fully bipedal, this tendency for European apes to
become more upright with hominid-like hands appears to be consistent with a
European origin of the hominids AND consistent with my view.

The second item concerns a cladistic study of the miocence apes, Gorilla,
Australopithecus and chimps. David Begun used 240 separate traits in his
phylogenetic study. He explicitly stated that his study indicated that
hominids entered Africa from Eurasia AT THE END OF THE MESSINIAN SALINITY

"Recent work in molecular and morphological systematics continues to
support the existnece of a great ape and human clade that excludes
hylobatids. Many researchers in hominoid systematics now refer to this
clade as the Hominidae. The origin of the hominids, as defined in this
way, is widely believed to e African, with Kenyapithecus most often cited
as either an ancestral hominid or as the sister clade to the hominids (but
see Benefit and McCrossin, 1995). Recent analysis of a large data base of
cranial, dental and postcranial characters (n=240) from 13 fossil and
extant hominoid taxa suggests a different picture. The most parsimonious
cladogram (446 steps) CI-63) links hylobatids to fossil and living hominids
to the exclusion of either Proconsul or Kenyapithecus. The most
parsimonious cladogram with Proconsul as the hominid outgroup requires 41
more steps, and that with Kenyapithecus as the outgroup requires 11 more
steps. This result serves to define a clade, the euhominoids, that excludes
all African early and middle Miocene taxa. Furthermore, this result
suggests that the oldest known diagnostically hominid hypodigm is that of
Sivapithecus from the Chinji Formation of the Siwaliks. Close in age to
this is Dryopithecus, followed by Ouranopithecus, Oreopithecus, and
Lufengpithecus, all from Eurasia. Euhominoids and hominids are thus seen as
primarily Eurasian, which suggests an explanation for the dearth of
hominid fossils in the late Miocene of Africa. Hominids may have entered
Africa for the first time only in the late Miocene or early Pliocene from
Eurasia, possibly following the Messinian salinity crisis." E. R. Begun, "A
Eurasian Origin of the Hominidae," American Journal of Physical
Anthropology, Supplement 24, 1997, p. 73-74

The lack of hominid fossils from the Miocene in Africa does appear to be
consistent with the idea that hominids evolved elsewhere and then moved
into Africa. In a more detailed report of his work he and coauthors state:

"A second clade leaving Africa may have led to the Asian great ape clade,
including Sivapithecus, Pongo, and also Ankarapithecus (Begun and Gulec,
1996), while a third clade, more closely related to African apes and
humans, may have followed. Oreopithecus and Lufengpithecus may represent
other distinct clades, as suggested by Fig. I, or Oreopithecus may be
associated with the Dryopithecus-Ouranopithecus-African ape and human clade
and Lufengpithecus with the Asian great ape clade (see above). This is a
centrifugal view of hominoid origins and diversification, with more
primitive clades being displaced to the peripheries of the range of the
Hominoidea, and more derived clades evolving in the center of the range,
and is consistent with the model proposed by Groves (1989) for other
primate taxa.
"Another possibility is that euhominoids evolved in Eurasia, with the
African ape and human clade returning recently to Africa. This would
explain the poor fossil record of African Miocene euhominoids, and the
apparent persistence of Proconsul or Kenyapithecus-like forms at a few
later localities (Hill and Ward, 1988). Griphopithecus from Slovakia and
Turkey may represent the ancestral stock from which hominoids diverged,
again in three major divisions: hylobatids, Asian great apes, and African
apes and humans. The last group may have further subdivided into European
and African branches, with the more terrestrial African branch returning to
Africa sometime during or after MN 10, about 9 Ma, when the area was
becoming drier (Steininger and Rogi, 1979; Steininger et al., 1985). There
is no compelling paleogeographic evidence to suggest one of these views
over the other. Connections between Africa and Eurasia were intermittent
throughout the middle and late Miocene, and appropriate ecological
conditions were apparently available for either of these two scenarios to
have occurred (Steininger etal., 1985)." David R. Begun, Carol V. Ward, and
Michael D. Rose, "Events in Hominoid Evolution," Function, Phylogeny, and
Fossils: Miocene Hominoid Evolution and Adaptations, ed. By M. D. Rose et
al, (New York: Plenum Press, 1997), p. 389-415, p. 413

Now, before I get my usual criticism that I believe some monkey from the
Miocene could build an ark, I don't. I have held that hominids evolved
from previous apes, and I have suggested that the site of Adam was in the
Mediterranean. Adam was much more advanced than Oreopithecus or
Dryopithecus. The fossil evidence would appear to give some support to this
view that the Tethys region was the site of hominid origins. And in my
opinion, this is an instance where new data has confirmed my earlier
prediction. While very few Christian apologists are willing to risk making
predictions about what future data will show, it is an essential part of
the confirmation of an idea. And before people totally dismiss my views as
being out of the mainstream, look at the above successful predictions.
Even though they are weak support for my veiws, they are indeed confirmatory.


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