Pliopithecus

Name: Pliopithecus ‭(‬Pliocene ape/More ape‭)‬.
Phonetic: Ply-oh-pif-e-cus.
Named By: Paul Gervais‭ ‬-‭ ‬1849.
Classification: Chordata,‭ ‬Mammaila,‭ ‬Primates,‭ ‬Simiiformes,‭ ‬Catarrhini,‭ ‬Pliopithecoidea,‭ ‬Pliopithecidae,‭ ‬Pliopithecinae.
Species: P.‭ ‬antiquus‭ (‬type‭)‬,‭ ‬P.‭ ‬canmatensis,‭ ‬P.‭ ‬piveteaui,‭ ‬P.‭ ‬platyodon,‭ ‬P.‭ ‬zhanxiangi.
Diet: Herbivore.
Size: Around‭ ‬1‭ ‬to‭ ‬1.2‭ ‬meters tall.
Known locations: Across Europe.
Time period: Langhian to Tortonian of the Miocene.
Fossil representation: Many specimens but‭ ‬usually of fragmentary remains.

       When researching the evolution of primates,‭ ‬Pliopithecus is one of the most common names you will come across.‭ ‬Much of this comes from early ideas about how Pliopithecus might be an ancestor to gibbons today,‭ ‬but the likelihood of this is now in doubt.‭ ‬While Pliopithecus was certainly gibbon like,‭ ‬these similarities are now treated by most researchers to be a case of convergent evolution where Pliopithecus evolved these features to cope with a similar habitat and lifestyle as gibbons today.‭ ‬In addition this also means that Pliopithecus probably predates the split of the apes from the monkeys and is itself not a true ape like gibbons are.
       For over the first hundred years that this primate was known in science,‭ ‬Pliopithecus was only ever known from teeth and jaws.‭ ‬It was not until the‭ ‬1960‭’‬s that more remains were discovered to allow for a more complete picture.‭ ‬As mentioned above,‭ ‬Pliopithecus was gibbon-like but was not a true gibbon.‭ ‬One area of difference is the short tail of Pliopithecus which is completely lacking in gibbons.‭ ‬The arms are proportionately shorter than those of gibbons which have led to questions as to whether Pliopithecus was able to swing through the tree canopy from branch to branch‭ (‬a form of motion called brachiation‭)‬.‭
       Another factor that counts against this ability are the orbits‭ (‬the sockets in the skull that hold the eyes‭) ‬which are slightly angled away from each other instead of directly forward.‭ ‬This arrangement would have cost Pliopithecus in terms of stereoscopic vision‭ (‬depth perception‭)‬,‭ ‬but would have given it a wider field of view,‭ ‬increasing the chance of spotting predators.‭ ‬This might however explain the success of later gibbons since their increased depth perception from their eye arrangements would have given them a survival advantage in moving through their environment over older forms like Pliopithecus.
       Because Pliopithecus is thought to have shared similar behaviour‭ ‬to gibbons and lived in the arboreal habitat of the tree canopy,‭ ‬it is also thought to have fed by browsing upon the softer leaves of this area.‭ ‬This kind of diet is supported by study of the teeth which seem to be best suited to this kind of vegetation.



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