Named By: Richard Leakey & Meave Leakey - 1986.
Classification: Chordata, Mammalia, Primates, Hominoidea, Proconsulidae, Afropithecinae.
Species: A. turkanensis (type).
Size: Around 1.5 meters.
Known locations: Kenya.
Time period: Burdigalian of the Miocene.
Fossil representation: Multiple specimens of over 45 individuals, although usually of fragmentary remains.
is one of the better known primates of Miocene era Africa and the
current fossils for this primate suggest that it was similar to the
even more numerous Proconsul.
However despite a body similarity to
Proconsul, Afropithecus is
thought to have had a
head more like
Aegyptopithecus (which may actually be Propliopithecus)
similar to Heliopithecus,
the latter of which has actually been
considered by some to be a synonym of Afropithecus.
Most of the study done about Afropithecus has been about its teeth, particularly the thickness of the tooth enamel. Enamel thickness is seen to vary considerably over different parts of the teeth, but generally Afropithecus is regarded as having thick enamel. Since Afropithecus predates the previous oldest known thick enamelled primate, Kenyapithecus, it is now regarded as the oldest known primate to have this feature. Combined with the primitive features of the face, Afropithecus is thought to have had a diet composed of mostly hard fruits.
The species name of A. turkanensis means ‘from Turkana’, a reference to Lake Turkana where the first Afropithecus remains were discovered in 1986.