Spanish fossil discovery, “Pau”

Last week a team of paleontologists revealed in the journal Science their discovery of an almost-complete fossil of what they claim could be the last common ancestor to all modern-day great apes (including humans). They have nicknamed the fossil “Pau” which is a catalán name and means “peace”. They chose this nickname because Pau was discovered at about the time the Iraq war was starting in March 2003. The skeleton was discovered at a new paleontological site, Barranc de Can Vila 1, near Barcelona.

The press release published by the American Association of Advancement of Science reads as follows:

Spain—A new ape species from Spain called Pierolapithecus catalaunicus,

or its close relative, may have been the last common ancestor to all living

great apes, including humans, researchers said Thursday at a press briefing

in Barcelona. The Spanish paleontology team describes its fossil find

in the 19 November issue of the journal Science, published by AAAS,

the nonprofit science society.

Like other great apes, Pierolapithecus had a stiff lower spine

and other special adaptations for climbing. These features, plus

the fossil’s age of about 13 million years, suggest that this species

was probably close to the last great ape ancestor, according to

Salvador Moyà-Solà of the Miguel Crusafont Institute of Paleontology

and the Diputación de Barcelona in Spain.

Moyà-Solà joined colleagues Thursday 18 November to brief

reporters at Sala Noble Edifici del Rellotge in Barcelona.

El Mundo publishes declarations made by Salvador Moyá-Solá describing how his team discovered the fossil. First they found a tooth and then as a bulldozer moved the earth to make it easier for the team to carry on searching, the fossil appeared. “In Spain we say you don’t find the good fossils, The good fossils find you!” explained the researcher.

The team patiently uncovered 83 bones, hidden and perfectly conserved for around 13 million years. “The importance of this new fossil is that for the first time all the key areas that define modern great apes are well-preserved,” Moyà-Solà said.

Pau was probably male, weighed about 35 kilograms and from its tooth shape indicates that his diet was fruit picked from the trees he climbed.