Miocene small-bodied ape from Eurasia sheds light on hominoid evolution.
Miocene small-bodied anthropoid primates from Africa and Eurasia are generally considered to precede the divergence between the two groups of extant catarrhines—hominoids (apes and humans) and Old World monkeys—and are thus viewed as more primitive than the stem ape Proconsul. Here we describe Pliobates cataloniae gen. et sp. nov., a small-bodied (4 to 5 kilograms) primate from the Iberian Miocene (11.6 million years ago) that displays a mosaic of primitive characteristics coupled with multiple cranial and postcranial shared derived features of extant hominoids. Our cladistic analyses show that Pliobates is a stem hominoid that is more derived than previously described small catarrhines and Proconsul. This forces us to reevaluate the role played by small-bodied catarrhines in ape evolution and provides key insight into the last common ancestor of hylobatids (gibbons) and hominids (great apes and humans).