Definitions

Dryopithecus

Dryopithecus

[drahy-oh-pith-i-kuhs, -puh-thee-]
Dryopithecus, an extinct group of apes. Fossils about 20 million years old have been found in Africa, Asia, and Europe. Dryopithecus had a semierect posture and is generally believed to be ancestral to modern apes and man. Proconsul, a group of fossil apes that may have been the ancestor of the chimpanzee, is considered by some authorities to be a subgroup of Dryopithecus.

Dryopithecus was a genus of apes that is known from localities ranging from Eastern Africa into Eurasia. It lived during the Upper Miocene period, from 12 to 9 million years ago, and probably includes the common ancestor of the lesser apes (gibbons and siamangs) and the great apes. The first fossil member of the Dryopithecus group (Dryopithecus fontani) was found in France in 1856. The five-cusp and fissure pattern of its molar teeth, known as the Y-5 arrangement, is typical of the dryopithecids and of hominoids in general. Other dryopithecids have been found in Hungary, Spain, and China.

After evolving near the southern end of the African Rift Valley, it expanded throughout the African continent and got as far as Asia and Europe. It was 60 cm long and was probably a brachiator, similar to modern orangutans and gibbons. It was not a knuckle walker, like the modern African apes (the gorillas and chimpanzees). Its face exhibited klinorhynchy, that is its face tilted downwards in profile.

Dryopithecus was a tree-dwelling animal that ate berries and fruits.

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