Temporal range: Miocene
|Ouranopithecus macedoniensis skull, Muséum national d'histoire naturelle, Paris|
Bonis & Melentis, 1977
Ouranopithecus is an extinct genus of Eurasian great ape represented by two species, Ouranopithecus macedoniensis, a late Miocene (9.6mya-8.7mya) hominoid from Greece, and Ouranopithecus turkae, also from the late Miocene (8.7mya-7.4mya) of Turkey. Based on O. macedoniensis's dental and facial anatomy, it has been suggested that the Ouranopithecines were actually Dryopithecine. However, Ouranopithecines are probably more closely related to the Ponginae. Some researchers consider O. macedoniensis to be the last common ancestor of apes and humans, and a forerunner to australopithecines and man, although this is very controversial and not widely accepted. It is true that O. macedoniensis shares derived features with some early hominins (such as the frontal sinus, a cavity in the forehead), but they are almost certainly not closely related species. It has been suggested that it may be a synonym of Graecopithecus freybergi, although this is widely disputed in the literature.
Ouranopithecus macedoniensis is known from three localities in Northern Greece. The type location is Ravin de la Pluie. The other localities are Chalkidiki and Xirochori. It is known from a large collection of cranial fossils and few post cranial. The material has been dated to the late Miocene 9.6 – 8.7 million years old, so slightly earlier than O. turkae. To some this suggests O turkae is the direct ancestor to O. Macedoniensis although it is generally accepted that they are sister taxons 
macedoniensis due to the holotype fossils discovery in Macedonia, Greece.
Examination of dental remains of O. macedoniensis and associated bovid species indicate a habitat of low tree cover and a rich herbaceous layer.
O. macedoniensis had a large, broad face with a prominent supraorbital torus. It also had square-shaped orbits. O. macedoniensis may have had a relatively large body size. The post cranial evidence is thin, but the dentition of O. macedoniensis suggests extreme sexual dimorphism, a far higher degree than that seen in any extant great ape. The ape was probably a quadruped. It is not possible to postulate on how O. macedoniensis used the trees but it seems likely that it did. O. macedoniensis's molar enamel cover was fairly thick and had low cusps. The male O. macedoniensis had large canine teeth with shearing lower premolars.
Behaviour is very difficult to infer in species with such a small diversity of fossil remains. It is reasonable to suggest it may have been either solitary or group living. The large body size may have made climbing difficult in some aspects so it may have been a terrestrial forager but this is purely speculation within the literature.
Ouranopithecus turkae is known from the Corakyerler locality, central Anatolia. It is known only from three cranial fossils. Dated faunal remains associated with the O. turkae fossils have been attributed to the late Miocene 8.7 – 7.4 million years ago, making O. turkae one of the youngest Eurasian great apes ever known.
Ouranopithecus due to its similarities with its probable sister taxon O. macedoniensis. Turkae after the discovery of the holotype fossils in the Republic of Turkey.
Associated faunal remains suggest O. turkae lived in either open woodland or an open savannah type environment.
The morphology of O. turkae is difficult to determine due to the complete lack of post-cranial remains. The post-canine dentary is second only to that of Gigantopithecus in size, perhaps suggesting a large body size. It is unknown whether the species was sexually dimorphic as there are no known female fossils. The ape was probably a quadruped but there is no evidence to confirm this.
Tooth morphology and wear suggest a diet of tough, abrasive food, the kind typically found in the type of environment O. turkae probably lived in.
Again, the lack of post-cranial remains makes it difficult to determine how O. turkae behaved. The fossils were not associated with any females of the species so it could be suggested that the males, at least, were solitary. It may also be assumed that O. turkae climbed trees, possibly to feed or to avoid predation, although their suggested large body size may have made climbing difficult. Some believe O. turkae was probably a terrestrial forager and did not feed in the trees.
See the phylogeny from. Note the placing of Ouranopithecus closer to the Ponginae than the Hominids.
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- Gulec, Erksin S.; et al (2007). "A new great ape from the lower Miocene of Turkey". Anthropological Science 115: 153–158. doi:10.1537/ase.070501.
- Alba, D.M.; et al (2010). "Enamel thickness in the middle Miocene great apes Anoiapithecus, Picrolapithecus and Dryopithecus". Proceedings of the Royal Society B 277: 2237–2245. doi:10.1098/rspb.2010.0218.
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