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Coordinates: 1°11′N 36°24′E / 1.19°N 36.4°E / 1.19; 36.4

Temporal range: 9.9–9.8 Ma
N. nakayamai
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Primates
Suborder: Haplorhini
Infraorder: Simiiformes
Family: Hominidae
Tribe: Dryopithecini
Genus: Nakalipithecus
Kunimatsu et al. 2007
N. nakayamai
Binomial name
Nakalipithecus nakayamai

Nakalipithecus nakayamai was a prehistoric ape species that lived in modern-day Kenya early in the Late Miocene, 10 million years ago (mya).[1][2] It is the type species of the new genus Nakalipithecus. The name of the genus refers to Nakali, the region where the fossil was found, while the species is named after Japanese geologist Katsuhiro Nakayama who died while working on the project.[3]


This ape was described from a fossil jawbone and eleven isolated teeth excavated in 2005 by a team of Japanese and Kenyan researchers in mud flow deposits in the Nakali area of northern Kenya's former Rift Valley Province,[1] hence the genus name Nakalipithecus "Nakali ape". The paleontological Nakali area is named for nearby Nakali peak, on the eastern margin of the upper Suguta Valley, some 30 km east of Kapedo, or some 50 km northeast of Lake Baringo. A preliminary paleontological exploration of the area in 1969 yielded evidence of the Miocene presence of Hipparion.[4] The Nakali area has been reported as yielding Miocene fossils of early Old World monkeys (Cercopithecoidea), since the 1970s.[5] Fossil remains of several other primate species were also present at the dig site where Nakalipithecus was found.[6]

Anatomy and relationships[edit]

The fossil teeth were covered in thick enamel, suggesting that the diet of this hominoid included a considerable amount of hard objects, possibly nuts or seeds. According to Kyoto University researchers, the Nakalipithecus species is very close to the last common ancestor of gorillas, chimpanzees, and humans. It can therefore be considered a basal member of the Homininae, before they split up into the three lineages alive today. Nakalipithecus also resembles the genus Ouranopithecus, another prehistoric hominid species which occurred in present-day Greece.[1]


Nakalipithecus together with the slightly younger Ouranopithecus provides evidence that current Homininae lineages (gorillas, chimpanzees, humans) diverged from a common ancestor at about 10 to 8 million years ago.[7]

The early Late Miocene presence of a basal hominine in Africa is hard to reconcile with the view[by whom?] that modern-type Great Apes went extinct in Africa and that the Homininae were originally an Asian lineage which only later recolonized Africa.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Kunimatsu, Y.; et al. (2007). "A new Late Miocene great ape from Kenya and its implications for the origins of African great apes and humans". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 104 (49): 19220–19225. doi:10.1073/pnas.0706190104. PMC 2148271. PMID 18024593.
  2. ^ Experts find jawbone of pre-human great ape in Kenya Archived 7 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine By Katie Nguyen,, 13 November 2007, retrieved 15 November 2007
  3. ^ Daily Nation: "Major fossil discovery"[permanent dead link]. Version of 2007-NOV-14. Retrieved 2007-NOV-14
  4. ^ E. Aguirre, Ph. Leaky (1974), "Nakali: nueva fauna de Hipparion del Rift Valley de Kenya", Estudios Geológicos, vol. 30, p. 219–227.
  5. ^ B. R. Benefit and M. Pickford (1986), "Miocene fossil cercopithecoids from Kenya", American Journal of Physical Anthropology 69(4):441–464doi:10.1002/ajpa.1330690404. "The lower molar from Nakali was discovered by Meave Leakey in 1978" (p. 446).
  6. ^ "Scientists have discovered another human ancestor" Archived 12 January 2017 at the Wayback Machine, The Voice, Volume 15, Issue 43, November 16, 2007. Mandy Gardner
  7. ^ Jha A (9 March 2012). "Scientists unlock genetic code for gorillas - and show the human link". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 8 May 2015. Hansford, Dave (13 November 2007). "New Ape May Be Human-Gorilla Ancestor". National Geographic News. Retrieved 8 May 2015.
  8. ^ Kunimatsu et al. (2007), Viegas (2007)[page needed]

External links[edit]