Superior cervical vertebrae of a Miocene hominoid and a Plio-Pleistocene hominid from southern Africa

Gommery, Dominique
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Bernard Price Institute for Palaeontological Research
The Miocene hominoid and Plio-Pleistocene hominid vertebral record is poor. In 1994, a complete atlas of a hominoid was found in breccia at Berg Aukas in Namibia. Its age was estimated to be middle Miocene (13 myr) on the basis of microfauna. This locality yielded the holotype of Otavipithecus namibiensis and the atlas could belong to the same genus. The specimen exhibits clear hominoid traits such as a weakly salient retroglenoid tubercle at the superior articular facet of the lateral mass, and a horizontal transverse process. This morphology of the transverse process is close to that of pygmy chimpanzees, gibbons and African colobines, suggesting that Otavipithecus was arboreal. This confirms the conclusions drawn from other parts of the skeleton. From the size of the atlas, a body weight of 15-20 kg is estimated for the Berg Aukas hominoid, which accords with previous estimates based on its teeth. The second fossil considered in this paper is an axis from Swartkrans, SK 854, dated to nearly 1,8 myr. This axis is compared with another Plio-Pleistocene axis from Ethiopia, AL 333.101. SK 854 shows a morphology different from that of humans and AL 333.101, and also of apes. The South African axis was attributed to Paranthropus by Robinson (1972), and its morphology is probably typical of bipedalism associated with climbing.
cervical vertebrae, hominoid, hominid, Miocene, Plio-Pleistocene, Namibia, South Africa