Sergio Almécija

Sergio Almécija
American Museum of Natural History · Division of Anthropology

35.67
 · 
PhD

About

120
Publications
21,006
Reads
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1,344
Citations
Introduction
My research focuses on understanding the major evolutionary transitions in ape and human evolution, especially the nature and context of the last common ancestor of chimpanzees and humans. My projects involve fieldwork, analysis of new and ‘old’ fossils, and comparative studies of key regions of the living and fossil hominid skeletons using morphometric and phylogenetically informed methods.
Research Experience
September 2012 - June 2015
Stony Brook University
Position
  • Research Instructor
July 2010 - August 2012
American Museum of Natural History
Position
  • PostDoc Position
January 2006 - June 2010
Institut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont
Position
  • Graduate Student

Publications

Publications (120)
Article
Full-text available
Human hands are distinguished from apes by possessing longer thumbs relative to fingers. However, this simple ape-human dichotomy fails to provide an adequate framework for testing competing hypotheses of human evolution and for reconstructing the morphology of the last common ancestor (LCA) of humans and chimpanzees. We inspect human and ape hand-...
Article
Full-text available
Orrorin tugenensis (Kenya, ca. 6 Ma) is one of the earliest putative hominins. Its proximal femur, BAR 1002'00, was originally described as being very human-like, although later multivariate analyses showed an australopith pattern. However, some of its traits (for example, laterally protruding greater trochanter, medially oriented lesser trochanter...
Article
Full-text available
The morphological nature of the last common ancestor (LCA) of chimpanzees/bonobos and humans is a fascinating topic in human evolution. Available evidence suggests that both lineages share a LCA that lived in Africa ∼8–6 Myr. However, the hominoid fossil record of this time period is inadequate, prompting the use of novel methodological approaches...
Article
Full-text available
Miocene small-bodied anthropoid primates from Africa and Eurasia are generally considered to precede the divergence between the two groups of extant catarrhines—hominoids (apes and humans) and Old World monkeys—and are thus viewed as more primitive than the stem ape Proconsul. Here we describe Pliobates cataloniae gen. et sp. nov., a small-bodied (...
Article
Full-text available
Skinner and colleagues (Research Article, 23 January 2015, p. 395), based on metacarpal trabecular bone structure, argue that Australopithecus africanus employed human-like dexterity for stone tool making and use 3 million years ago. However, their evolutionary and biological assumptions are misinformed, failing to refute the previously existing hy...
Article
Full-text available
Currently, there are no living platyrrhine primates inhabiting the main Caribbean islands. Nevertheless, the fossil record of this area has provided outstanding findings of different New World monkeys that were part of a diverse radiation exhibiting remarkably unusual morphologies. Among these, the Cuban genus Paralouatta corresponds to one of the...
Article
Full-text available
Oreopithecus bambolii (8.3–6.7 million years old) is the latest known hominoid from Europe, dating to approximately the divergence time of the Pan -hominin lineages. Despite being the most complete nonhominin hominoid in the fossil record, the O. bambolii skeleton IGF 11778 has been, for decades, at the center of intense debate regarding the specie...
Article
Full-text available
The divergence of crown catarrhines—i.e., the split of cercopithecoids (Old World monkeys) from hominoids (apes and humans)—is a poorly understood phase in our shared evolutionary history with other primates. The two groups differ in the anatomy of the hip joint, a pattern that has been linked to their locomotor strategies: relatively restricted mo...
Article
Gorillas occupy habitats that range in elevation from 0 to 3850 m. Populations at higher elevations tend to be less arboreal than lowland populations. Variation in habitat-specific behaviors among closely related populations makes gorillas a unique model to study the relationship between locomotion and morphology. The pelvis reflects differences in...
Article
Only a few postcranial remains have been assigned to the Miocene great ape Dryopithecus fontani, leading to uncertainties in the reconstruction of its overall body plan and positional behavior. Here we shed light on the locomotor repertoire of this species through the study of the femoral neck cortical bone (FNCB) distribution of IPS41724, a partia...
Article
Castell de Barbera�, located in the Valle�s-Penede�s Basin (NE Iberian Peninsula), is one of the few European sites where pliopithecoids (Barberapithecus) and hominoids (cf. Dryopithecus) co-occur. The dating of this Miocene site has proven controversial. A latest Aragonian (MN7þ8, ca. 11.88e11.18 Ma) age was long accepted by most authors, despite...
Article
Full-text available
We describe new specimens of the Miocene moschid Hispanomeryx, from the early Vallesian sites of Castell de Barberà (CB) and Ecoparc de Can Mata (ECM), Vallès-Penedès Basin, representing the first Iberian record of Hispanomeryx outside the inner Miocene basins. Fossils from ECM constitute Hispanomeryx lacetanus, sp. nov., the first Hispanomeryx to...
Article
Full-text available
Monitor lizards (genus Varanus) inhabited Europe at least from the early Miocene to the Pleistocene. Their fossil record is limited to about 40 localities that have provided mostly isolated vertebrae. Due to the poor diagnostic value of these fossils, it was recently claimed that all the European species described prior to the 21st century are not...
Data
List of references consulted to score characters for the phylogenetic analysis. (PDF)
Data
Matrix used in the phylogenetic analyses. (NEX)
Data
Lists of the apomorphies of V. marathonensis, of the synapomorphies of the clade including V. marathonensis and the subgenus Indovaranus, and of Varanus (based on analysis 1B). (PDF)
Data
List of extant comparative specimens of Varanus. (PDF)
Data
New characters added to the original list of Conrad et al. [11]. (PDF)
Data
Results of the phylogenetic analysis 1A. (PDF)
Data
Results of the phylogenetic analysis 2A. (PDF)
Article
Full-text available
The primate foot functions as a grasping organ. As such, its bones, soft tissues, and joints evolved to maximize power and stability in a variety of grasping configurations. Humans are the obvious exception to this primate pattern, with feet that evolved to support the unique biomechanical demands of bipedal locomotion. Of key functional importance...
Article
Here we analyze 1.07–0.99 million-year-old pelvic remains UA 173/405 from Buia, Eritrea. Based on size metrics, UA 173/405 is likely associated with an already described pubic symphysis (UA 466) found nearby. The morphology of UA 173/405 was quantitatively characterized using three-dimensional landmark-based morphometrics and linear data. The Buia...
Article
In the Iberian Peninsula, Miocene apes (Hominoidea) are generally rare and mostly restricted to the Vallès-Penedès Basin. Here we report a new hominoid maxillary fragment with M2 from this basin. It was surface-collected in March 2017 from the site of Can Pallars i Llobateres (CPL, Sant Quirze del Vallès), where fossil apes had not been previously...
Poster
Full-text available
In primates and some other mammals, iliac flare, or the lateral expansion of the upper ilium relative to the lower ilium, appears to be greater in larger species (e.g., great apes) than in their smaller-bodied relatives. Several studies have shown that the primate upper iliac blade scales with positive allometry, but it is unclear how lower ilium w...
Article
Objectives: High-resolution imaging of fossils with X-ray computed microtomography (lCT) has become a very powerful tool in paleontological research. However, fossilized bone, embedding matrix, and dental tissues do not always provide a distinct structural signal with X-rays. We demonstrate the benefits of high-resolution neutron radiation in three...
Article
Full-text available
Objectives: Gorillas, along with chimpanzees and bonobos, are ubiquitously described as 'knuckle-walkers.' Consequently, knuckle-walking (KW) has been featured pre-eminently in hypotheses of the pre-bipedal locomotor behavior of hominins and in the evolution of locomotor behavior in apes. However, anecdotal and behavioral accounts suggest that mou...
Article
Full-text available
Primate vertebral formulae have long been investigated because of their link to locomotor behavior and overall body plan. Knowledge of the ancestral vertebral formulae in the hominoid tree of life is necessary to interpret the pattern of evolution among apes, and to critically evaluate the morphological adaptations involved in the transition to hom...
Article
The single extant species of the anuran genus Latonia lives in Israel, but in the fossil record the genus is known mainly from Europe, spanning from the Oligocene to the early Pleistocene. Here we describe new remains of Latonia from the early to late Miocene of the Vallès-Penedès Basin (NE Iberian Peninsula), coming from the following localities:...
Conference Paper
Epipliopithecus vindobonensis is considered a stem putative catarrhine that has been placed within the Pliopithecinae. Several skeletons and isolated remains belonging to at least three individuals were found at the beginning of the 20th century in Děvínská Nová Ves (Slovakia) and dated in the early Middle Miocene. Apart from the first descriptive...
Poster
Full-text available
Gut proportions (GP) are assumed to reflect both phylogeny and the type of diet a species is best adapted to digest. Though data suggest that humans are unique among hominoids in having a relatively large small intestine and a relatively small colon, there is no consensus on what this reveals about human dietary evolution. Conflicting interpretatio...
Article
Full-text available
Elucidating the pelvic morphology of the Pan-Homo last common ancestor (LCA) is crucial for understanding ape and human evolution. The pelvis of Ardipithecus ramidus has been the basis of controversial interpretations of the LCA pelvis. In particular, it was proposed that the lower ilium became elongate independently in the orangutan and chimpanzee...
Chapter
Full-text available
Humans possess the most advanced manipulative skills among hominoid primates and produce the most sophisticated technology. This capability is reflected in (1) human hand anatomy, facilitating opposition during precision grasping; and (2) neurobiological structure and function, conferring humans with enhanced neocortical control over behavior. This...
Chapter
Hands of extant hominoids are highly derived compared with those of non-hominoid catarrhines. The evolution of the ape hand started from an appendage very well suited for powerful pollical-assisted grasping that supplied a balancing function in response to the loss of tail as seen in the early Miocene Proconsul (or Ekembo). Nacholapithecus from the...
Article
Objectives: The carpal bones of the middle Miocene hominoid Nacholapithecus kerioi are described based on new materials. Materials and methods: The materials comprise a trapezoid, three capitates, two hamates, a centrale, a lunate, a triquetrum, and a pisiform, collected during the 2001 and 2002 field seasons from Nachola, Kenya. We also describ...
Article
Full-text available
Modern humans are characterized by specialized hand morphology that is associated with advanced manipulative skills. Thus, there is important debate in paleoanthropology about the possible cause–effect relationship of this modern human-like (MHL) hand anatomy, its associated grips and the invention and use of stone tools by early hominins. Here we...
Article
Full-text available
The flying squirrels (Sciuridae, Pteromyini) from the late Miocene (MN9, early Vallesian) site of Can Llobateres 1 (Vallès-Penedès Basin, Catalonia, Spain) are represented by up to five different taxa: Albanensia aff. grimmi, Miopetaurista neogrivensis, Miopetaurista crusafonti, Blackia miocaenica and cf. Pliopetaurista sp. Miopetaurista crusafonti...
Conference Paper
Miocene apes display a mosaic of primitive and derived hominoid features conferring them a body plan with no modern locomotor analogs. Thus, the external morphology of the proximal femur in available fossil apes most closely approaches the extant ape condition. However, femoral mechanical properties and internal structure in extinct apes are less w...
Article
Three-dimensional geometric morphometrics (3DGM) is a powerful tool for capturing and visualizing the “pure” shape of complex structures. However, these shape differences are sometimes difficult to interpret from a functional viewpoint, unless specific approaches (mostly based on biomechanical modeling) are employed. Here, we use 3DGM to explore th...
Article
Full-text available
The evolution of blanid amphisbaenians (Mediterranean worm lizards) is mainly inferred based on molecular studies, despite their fossils are common in Cenozoic European localities. This is because the fossil record exclusively consists in isolated elements of limited taxonomic value. We describe the only known fossil amphisbaenian skull from Europe...
Article
Oreopithecus bambolii is a Late Miocene ape from Italy, first described in the late 19th century. Its interpretation is still highly controversial, especially in reference to its hand proportions and thumb morphology. In this study, the authors provide detailed descriptions of the available Oreopithecus pollical distal phalanx (PDP) specimens, as w...
Article
Full-text available
The mosaic nature of the Miocene ape postcranium hinders the reconstruction of the positional behavior and locomotion of these taxa based on isolated elements only. The fossil great ape Pierolapithecus catalaunicus (IPS 21350 skeleton; 11.9 Ma) exhibits a relatively wide and shallow thorax with moderate hand length and phalangeal curvature, dorsall...
Article
Full-text available
Available remains of the barbourofelin Albanosmilus jourdani from the Middle to Late Miocene of the Vallès-Penedès Basin (NE Iberian Peninsula) are described. In addition to the dentognathic remains described by previous authors, the new material includes a complete cranium, a calvarium and several mandibles from Abocador de Can Mata, Creu Conill 2...
Article
New remains of felid jaws and teeth are described from several localities of the local stratigraphic series of Abocador de Can Mata (ca. 11.9 to 11.6 Ma, Middle Miocene; Vallès-Penedès Basin, Catalonia, Spain). Three different taxa are identified: Styriofelis turnauensis, Pseudaelurus romieviensis and Pseudaelurus quadridentatus. The described rema...
Conference Paper
The complicated taxonomic history of Miocene European Anguinae (Squamata, Anguidae), as illustrated by the problematic use of Dopasia instead of Ophisaurus, can only be clarified by combining a better knowledge on the osteology of extant taxa with the information provided by relatively complete and articulated fossil specimens. The application of n...
Conference Paper
Amphisbaenians are a group of squamates (Reptilia, Lepidosauria) strongly adapted for a fossorial lifestyle. Fossil remains of the genus Blanus, the single extant European amphisbaenian, have been reported for many Neogene and Quaternary localities of Europe. Nevertheless, researchers encounter difficulties regarding the taxonomic referral of the s...
Article
The relationship between femoral neck superior and inferior cortical thickness in primates is related to locomotor behavior. This relationship has been employed to infer bipedalism in fossil hominins, although bipeds share the same pattern of generalized quadrupeds, where the superior cortex is thinner than the inferior one. In contrast, knuckle-wa...
Article
Primate hands display a major selective compromise between locomotion and manipulation. The thumb may or may not participate in locomotion, but it plays a central role in most manipulative activities. Understanding whether or not the last common ancestor of humans and Pan displayed extant-ape-like hand proportions (i.e., relatively long fingers and...
Article
Here we report 12 teeth of the fossil great ape Hispanopithecus (Hominidae: Dryopithecinae: Hispanopithecini), recovered in 2011 from the locality of Can Llobateres 1 (MN9, early Vallesian, Late Miocene, ca. 9.7 Ma [millions of years ago]) in the Vallès-Penedès Basin (Catalonia, Spain). Besides an isolated dP(3) from layer CLL1.1b in the eastern (c...
Article
Full-text available
The extinct dryopithecine Hispanopithecus (Primates: Hominidae), from the Late Miocene of Europe, is the oldest fossil great ape displaying an orthograde body plan coupled with unambiguous suspensory adaptations. On the basis of hand morphology, Hispanopithecus laietanus has been considered to primitively retain adaptations to above-branch quadrupe...
Data
Morphology of the proximal ulnar morphology of H. laietanus compared to selected hominoids. Each specimen depicted (from top to bottom) in medial, anterior and lateral views. All specimens depicted as left and not to scale (scale bars correspond to 3 cm). A, H. laietanus IPS34575g; B, H. hungaricus RUD 22 (cast, reversed); C, Oreopithecus bambolii...
Data
Results of the Principal Components Analysis (PCA) of the proximal ulna. This PCA analysis is based on eight Mosimann shape variables, computed from the mean values for the following eight linear measurements [42], by dividing them by their geometric mean (GM) and applying logarithms (ln): PAP, proximal shaft height (anteroposterior); PSML, proxima...
Data
Full-text available
Description of dentognathic and postcranial remains of Hispanopithecus laietanus from CF. (PDF)
Data
Morphology of the distal humeral diaphysis of H. laietanus compared to selected hominoids. Each specimen depicted (from left to right) in anterior, medial, posterior and lateral views. A, H. laietanus female IPS34575i; B, cf. Dryopithecus fontani IPS4334 male (reversed); C, D. fontani HGP 3 female (cast); D, Griphopithecus darwini 1991/580 (cast, r...