New York: The ancient giant apes - who lived about 11.9 million years ago - may have adopted the upright posture often linked with humans, a new study suggests.
An oldest known hip from a great ape Pierolapithecus catalaunicus has shed light on the evolution of hominids, revealing the ancient creature was also like the modern great apes.
Scientists discovered its fossil skeleton near Barcelona in Catalonia in northeastern Spain in 2002.
Analysis of its skeleton and teeth suggest it was male, weighed about 35 kilogrammes and ate fruits, `LiveScience` reported.
The age of the fossil and a prior study of Pierolapithecus` wrist, spine, rib cage and shoulder hints that it could be the last relative the great ape family had in common.
"It provides us with information about the condition of the earliest great apes ? what they looked like, how they behaved and moved about the environment, what their diet might have consisted of," researcher Ashley Hammond, a biological anthropologist at the University of Missouri at Columbia, said.
Researchers said Pierolapithecus` shoulder blades lie along its back just like those of modern great apes and humans, but in monkeys, the shoulder blades rest on the sides of the rib cage, like in dogs.
Pierolapithecus, like the modern great apes, has a wider and flatter rib cage than monkeys and a relatively short and stiff lower spine that would make it easier to assume an upright posture to climb vertically.
The creature also had flexible wrists like apes and humans, although it kept the relatively short fingers and toes of monkeys, suggesting it did not do a lot of hanging from trees.
The great ape family, which includes gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees, bonobos and humans, is thought to have diverged from the lesser apes, which include modern gibbons, about 11 million to 16 million years ago.