They found it by chance in 2002 during construction work on a landfill in the town of Els Hostalets de Pierola, in Barcelona, and it turned out to be a valuable fossil in the history of human evolution. Formally named as Pierolapithecus catalaunicus and popularly known as Pau, this extinct great ape that lived in Catalonia about 12 million years ago rose to fame on November 18, 2004, when this species was described in the prestigious magazine Science.
Only fossils of an individual were found, remains of a partial skeleton with which they have been able to assemble a good part of the skull of a great ape that lived in the current Vallès-Penedès Basin, at that time a dense and humid tropical forest. According to the analysis of the team led by Salvador Moyà-Solá, from the Miquel Crusafont Catalan Institute of Paleontology (ICP), it could be the common ancestor of humans and the current great apes (gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans). From that crucial time to understand where we come from, the middle Miocene, few fossils have been found, hence the great importance it acquired. Pierolapithecus catalaunicus.
Two decades after their discovery at the Can Mata site, Pau’s remains, which were in relatively good condition for their age but fragmented and deteriorated, have been subjected to a technological lifting to reveal in detail what his true face was like. For itthe fossils have passed through modern scanners which have made it possible to reconstruct its appearance in three dimensions, within the framework of research carried out jointly by scientists from the Miquel Crusafont Institute, the American Museum of Natural History and Brooklyn College. The results are published this Monday in the magazine Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Pau belongs to a group of individuals known as hominoid primates, It weighed about 35 kilograms, was between one and 1.2 meters tall and was probably a male, according to estimates by paleontologists, who believe it comes from Africa. His canines are prominent and large and the wear and tear of his teeth reveals that he died young. Although the cause is unknown, they have been able to find out that carnivores scavengers from its environment either killed it or took advantage of its remains when he had died, because his long bones were crumbled.
Its discoverers considered it the oldest known representative of the family Hominidae (the group that includes humans, chimpanzees, orangutans, gorillas and bonobos), with modern body characteristics: a wide and narrow thorax between the shoulder and chest, the shoulder blades located on the back, a long clavicle, the vertebrae in the lumbar area shorter and a characteristic arrangement of the joint between the forearm and the wrist, as detailed by the ICP scientists on their website.