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The inner ear hides clues on human evolution

A PNAS study led by the Institut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont (ICP) analyzed the kinship between two Miocene great apes (Hispanopithecus and Rudapithecus) based on the morphology of their inner ear semicircular canals. This anatomical structure is informative in reconstructing phylogenetic relationships between fossil primate species. The results are in accordance with the distinction of these taxa at a generic level and reinforce their allocation in the Hominidae. Furthermore, the similarities in semicircular canal morphology with extant chimpanzees and bonobos suggest that the latter possibly retained the ancestral condition, while orangutans appear to have derived the structure independently.