Amphipithecus mogaungensis – The Earliest Anthropoid

Human Evolution

Amphipithecus mogaungensis (Ape-like Creature of Mogaung derived from the Ancient Greek ἀμφί , amphi meaning “around” and pithēkos, pithecus meaning “ape”) was a primate that live in Late Eocene Myanmar. Along with another primate Pondaungia cotteri, both are difficult to categorise within the Order, Primata. What little has come to light suggests that both were well beyond the affinitites of adapidae or omomyidae. Often referred to as higher primates, Anthropoidea, include humans, monkeys and apes. Deep mandibles and mandibular molars with low, broad crowns suggest they are both anthropoids. More material will need to surface to investigate what these primates are. The teeth also suggest that these were frugivore primates, with a body mass of between six and ten kilograms.

Kansas University Yearbook: Portrait Photo of Barnum Brown (1897)
Cast of Mandibular Segment of Amphipithecus mogaungensis – Natural History Museum Paris

In early 1923, notable fossil prospector, Barnum Brown (famed for discovering the first T. rex skeleton) travelled with his wife Lilian Brown to Yangon, the capital of Myanmar. Brown focused his fossil prospection along areas of Pondaung Sandstone. It was in the outskirts of Mogaung town that he identified a mandible with three teeth (Right). He did not recognise the significance of his find until 14 years later, when Edwin H. Colbert identified the fossil as a new species of primate and the earliest known anthropoid in the world.

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