Aegyptopithecus, which means Egyptian ape or monkey, was an Oligocene primate comparable in size to a modern-day howler monkey most associated with Fayum, Egypt. This species may be small by today’s standards, but it was the largest of the anthropoids found in the Fayum Formation during that time period. Unlike modern monkeys, Aegyptopithecus had short limbs and was most likely a slow moving animal. Even though fossil evidence of the greater trochanter is inconsistent with that of leaping primates, it is still widely accepted that Aegyptopithecus was an arboreal quadruped. The evidence supporting this is the phalanges of the hands and feet indicating a powerful grip like that seen in modern-day arboreal quadrupeds. Also, the stabilizing muscles on the brachial flexors of the humerus and pronounced brachialis flange further support this idea.
Like many other tree-dwelling primates, Aegyptopithecus’s dentition shows it was most likely a frugivores. The teeth are low crowned and have little enamel, suggesting a diet of soft ripe fruits. However, large canines are noted in the fossil evidence male specimens in the fossil evidence, but these large teeth are more likely for show than for use. Another notable dental characteristic is the same dental formula as modern-day anthropoids, yet the molars bear a closer resemblance to Old World Monkeys than to apes or humans. Many paleoanthropologists believe this supports Aegyptopithecus as a common ancestor to monkeys, apes, and humans.
Aegyptopithecus is not only an important find because it could very possibly be an ancestral lineage to humans, but also because it closes the gap of missing information between Eocene and Miocene fossil hominoids and provides paleoanthropologist a more complete picture of hominin evolution.
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