Reference Work Entry

Handbook of Paleoanthropology

pp 921-977


4 Fossil Record of Miocene Hominoids

  • David R. Begun


Hominoids, or taxa identified as hominoids, are known from much of Africa, Asia, and Europe since the Late Oligocene. The earliest taxa, from Africa, resemble extant hominoids but share with them mainly primitive characters. Middle and Late Miocene taxa are clearly hominoids, and by the end of the Middle Miocene most can be attributed to either the pongine (Pongo) or hominine (African ape and human) clade. Interestingly, there is no fossil record of the hylobatid clade (gibbons and siamangs). Miocene hominoids experienced a series of dispersals between Africa, Europe, and Asia that mirror those experienced by many other contemporaneous land mammals. These intercontinental movements were made possible by the appearance of land bridges, changes in regional and global climatic conditions, and evolutionary innovations. Most of the attributes that define the hominids evolved in the expansive subtropical zone that was much of Eurasia. Hominines and pongines diverge from each other in Eurasia, and the final Miocene dispersal brings the hominine clade to Africa and the pongine clade to Southeast Asia. Having moved south with the retreating subtropics, hominines and pongines finally diverge in situ into their individual extant lineages.