The story of the discovery of a new hominid fossil, found in Spain, is making the rounds of the news circuits at the moment, hot on the heels of the Darwinius massilae discovery; the new hominid has been reported in Science Daily. Named Anoiapithecus brevirostris, the fossil, called "Lluc" by researchers, is another piece in the puzzle of hominid development.
As with many hominid fossils, this one is sadly but not unexpectedly largely incomplete, but study has been possible, regardless:
"[The research team's] findings are based on a partial cranium that preserves most of the face and the associated mandible. The cranium was unearthed in 2004 in the fossil-rich area of Abocador de Can Mata (els Hostalets de Pierola, l’Anoia, Barcelona), where remains of other fossilized hominid species have been found. Preparing the fossil for study was a complicated process, due to the fragility of the remains. But once the material was available for analysis, the results were surprising: The specimen (IPS43000) combined a set of features that, until now, had never been found in the fossil record."Anoiapithecus displays a very modern facial morphology, with a muzzle prognathism (i.e., protrusion of the jaw) so reduced that, within the family Hominidae, scientists can only find comparable values within the genus Homo, whereas the remaining great apes are notoriously more prognathic (i.e., having jaws that project forward markedly). The extraordinary resemblance does not indicate that Anoiapithecus has any relationship with Homo, the researchers note. However, the similarity might be a case of evolutionary convergence, where two species evolving separately share common features."Lluc's discovery may also hold an important clue to the geographical origin of the hominid family. Some scientists have suspected that a group of primitive hominoids known as kenyapithecines (recorded from the Middle Miocene of Africa and Eurasia) might have been the ancestral group that all hominids came from. The detailed morphological study of the cranial remains of Lluc showed that, together with the modern anatomical features of hominids (e.g., nasal aperture wide at the base, high zygomatic rood, deep palate), it displays a set of primitive features, such as thick dental enamel, teeth with globulous cusps, very robust mandible and very procumbent premaxilla. These features characterize a group of primitive hominoids from the African Middle Miocene, known as afropithecids."
It's a fascinating article, and if your time permits take a few minutes to read and absorb it.
I am also obliged to say there that if any "Intelligent Design" proponents would like to try to step forward and offer their comprehensive and authoritative view on how their "theory" addresses major paleontological finds like this one, I'll be waiting - amusedly - for your rhetorical infelicities to pour forth. In the meantime, the grownups can carry on with the real science, and I look forward with great anticipation to the next big find.