Seven million years ago, the ancestors of humans already moved on two legs across Africa. That’s the conclusion of a new study of the forearms and femurs of Sahilanthropus chadensis, a great ape that lived in central Africa, in present-day Chad, during the Miocene epoch. French and Chadian researchers published the results today in the journal Nature.
The nature of the femur indicates that the monkey usually moves on two feet on the ground. But research on the forearms showed that Sahelanthropus tchadensis also moved in the trees and that the monkey actually had a strong grip in his hands, which distinguishes him, for example, from gorillas or chimpanzees, which are four-legged.
Scientists wrote that Sahelanthropus tchadensis is the oldest ancestor of humans. The researchers assigned the forearms and femur to a great ape, because no other great apes were found at the site. The researchers said it was not clear whether the bones belonged to a great ape.
Previous studies have shown that human ancestors walked upright for millions of years. For example, another hominin, Orrorin tugenensis, walked upright about six million years ago in what is today Kenya. The so-called Australopithecus moved on two legs across Africa four million years ago. Admittedly, there has been some debate among scholars about how those species were “humanlike,” and where they reside within the human family tree.
The research team included paleontologists from the University of N’Djamena, the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRD) in Chad, and the University of Poitiers and the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in France.
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