Extinct Apes: Lufengpithecus, Sivapithecus & Anoiapithecus

Instructor: Derrick Arrington

Derrick has a master's degree in science education and has taught at the high school and community college level for 13 years.

Many species that have lived on Earth throughout time are now extinct. Learning about these extinct organisms provides valuable information for scientists regarding the puzzle pieces of evolutionary history. In this lesson, we will learn about three types of extinct apes.

Introduction to Apes of the Past

Have you ever wondered how all living things are connected? Why do some organisms resemble and behave like others? Is there a common link? Evolutionary biologists and anthropologists work together in many instances to piece together the history of the modern human species. You may have seen pictures of cavemen or neanderthal depictions of early humans. What if you could relate them to skeletons of ancient apes? Discoveries of skeletal remains from all over the world are analyzed to find out about the anatomical structure, lifestyle, mobility, relationships, and general characteristics to form hypotheses about our ancestors. Three important genus that are being studied include Lufengipithecus, Sivapithecus, and Anoiapithecus.

Lufengpithecus

Thousands of skeletal remains as well as several intact skulls have been identified as belonging to the extinct apes of the genus Lufengpithecus. Remains of these apes have been found in several provinces of China. Members of the Lufengpithecus genus are known to have been a rather large apes with an estimated weight of approximately 110lbs. These apes are believed to have developed a significant degree of bipedalism. Bipedalism is a scientific term referring to locomotion and the ability to stand and walk on two legs. The devlopment of bipedalism could make these Lufengpithecus organisms part of the puzzle of life as a link to humans!

Sivapithecus

Sivapithecus is a genus of apes that is believed to have lived approximately 12.2 million years ago on the Indian subcontinent. Remains of this ape were first discovered in the 1930s. Current analysis from the skeletal remains of these apes indicates that they may be a representative of a split between the ancestors of orangutans and chimpanzees, gorillas, and humans. Interestingly, their nasal structure is of great resemblance to that of early African human skeletons that have been analyzed. Could they be a part of the human puzzle? While no complete skeletons have been found scientist have reconstructed an approximate rendering of the skeleton of the species indicating that it was most likely around 4.9 feet tall with the body structure of a chimpanzee and the facial structure of an orangutan. Dental analysis of the remains indicates that these apes had large and heavy molars suitable for grinding tough food such as savannah grasses and seeds.

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