Yet another link: Stony Brook research finds last common ancestor to apes, humans

There is no “Missing Link.” There is no one species of life that solely links humans to the rest of the primate chain because evolution doesn’t work that way.

Rather, evolution is a constant and ongoing process of minor selection and mutation that produces lots of failed and very few successful mutations. Some of those mutations become, over the course of millions of generations, their own separate species of life. Most do not.

But there is, when taking the long view, a tree of life that traces the path of evolution throughout the history of life. This tree is rarely complete in even the smallest twigs, because adding to the difficulty of tracing paleontological history is the fact that most bones – to say nothing of full skeletons – never become fossils. Rare is the evidence of prehistoric life, and the more specific the requirements of science, the harder the evidence is to come by.

A new study coauthored by boffins in Stony Brook and the University of Missouri reveals the discovery in 2002 of yet another interesting branching point in the evolution of Great Apes, including chimpanzees, orangutans, bonobos (not the overpriced pants), gorillas, and humans:

Ape pelvis fills gap in evolution puzzle –

… the fingers of the P. catalaunicus are unlike those of modern great apes, indicating that great apes may have evolved differently than scientists originally hypothesized.

Pierolapithecus catalaunicus seemed to use a lot of upright behaviors such as vertical climbing, but not the fully suspensory behaviors we see in great apes alive today,” Hammond says.

“Today, chimpanzees, orangutans, bonobos and gorillas use forelimb-dominated behaviors to swing below branches, but Pierolapithecus catalaunicus didn’t have the long, curved finger bones needed for suspension, so those behaviors evolved more recently.”

By Tommy Belknap

Owner, developer, editor of DragonFlyEye.Net, Tom Belknap is also a freelance journalist for The 585 lifestyle magazine. He lives in the Rochester area with his wife and son.