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Tiny Hominid Species Once Lived in Germany

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With an estimated body mass of about 10 kg, the newly-discovered species, Buronius manfredschmidi, represents the smallest known hominid.

Danuvius guggenmosi, a great ape that lived some 12 million years ago (Miocene period) in what is now Germany. Image credit: Velizar Simeonovski.

Buronius manfredschmidi lived in what is now Bavaria, Germany, during the Late Miocene epoch, 11.6 million years ago.

The primate’s fossilized remains were found at the site of Hammerschmiede, which is best known for exceptional remains of the hominid species Danuvius guggenmosi.

“Miocene hominoid localities become increasingly common in Europe from the Late Middle Miocene onwards, shortly after they become rare in Africa,” said Dr. Madelaine Böhme from the University of Tübingen and colleagues.

“Despite their frequency, richness, and in three cases an exceptional abundance of well-preserved hominoid fossils (Can Llobateres, Hammerschmiede and Rudabánya), no European locality has yielded more than one hominoid taxon — until now.”

Buronius manfredschmidi is represented by partial remains of two teeth and one patella whose size and shape are distinct from Danuvius guggenmosi and all other known apes.

“The teeth and patella of Buronius manfredschmidi are close in size to siamangs, suggesting a body mass of about 10 kg,” the paleontologists said.

“In contrast, Danuvius guggemosi has a calculated body mass ranging from 17 to 31 kg using regressions for several measurements from the femur and tibia or, by using a different methodology of reconstruction, from 14.5 to 46.3 kg.”

Based on the structure of the fossils, the researchers infer that Buronius manfredschmidi was an adept climber which ate a diet of soft foods such as leaves.

These features suggest that the new species had a distinct lifestyle from Danuvius guggenmosi, which is a larger bodied species with a diet of tougher foods.

“The enamel in Buronius manfredschmidi is thinner than that of any other ape in Europe and is comparable to that of gorillas,” Dr. Böhme said.

“The enamel of Danuvius guggenmosi, on the other hand, is thicker than that of all related extinct species and almost reaches the thickness of human enamel.”

“The different enamel thickness corresponds to the shape of the chewing surfaces.”

“The Buronius manfredschmidi enamel is smoother and has stronger cutting edges; that of Danuvius guggenmosi is notched and has blunt tooth cusps.”

“This shows that Buronius manfredschmidi ate leaves and Danuvius guggenmosi was an omnivore.”

The differences likely allowed these two species to share a habitat without competing for resources, similar to modern gibbons and orangutans which share habitats in Borneo and Sumatra.

This is the first known example of a European Miocene fossil site with multiple ancient ape species, though the scientists suggest that re-examination of other similar sites might uncover more examples of this cohabiting behavior.

“The new great ape from Hammerschmiede, Buronius manfredschmidi, is with about 10 kg body weight not only the smallest known crown ape, he attested the first case of hominid syntopy for Europe,” the authors said.

“The leaf-eating Buronius manfredschmidi shared the habitat with the omnivorous bipedal ape Danuvius guggenmosi.”

The discovery of Buronius manfredschmidi is reported in a paper in the journal PLoS ONE.


M. Böhme et al. 2024. Buronius manfredschmidi – A new small hominid from the Early Late Miocene of Hammerschmiede (Bavaria, Germany). PLoS ONE 19 (6): e0301002; doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0301002

Source : Breaking Science News

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