Seven million year old human bone leads to an amazing discovery

Seven million years back our ancestors could walk upright. Did that surprise you? We tend to picture the early man as this hunched-up creature, but new evidence suggests that’s not how they were.

A fossil leg bone that was found in Chad more than 20 years ago demonstrated that a creature known as Sahelanthropus tchadensis was an early human ancestor that walked on two feet.

The researchers looked at 23 characteristics of the fossils, which they claim link the ancestor to bipedalism or upright walking and show a closer affinity to humans than apes.

The discovery was reported in the Nature journal.

S.tchadensis was found by a French and Chadian team in the Toros-Menalla region of the Djurab desert, Lake Chad basin in July 2001.

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An almost intact, but severely damaged skull was the main discovery; it was nicknamed Toumaï which in the Chadian Daza language means “hope of life”.

However, the current discovery was not made by the hope of life skull rather it is based on the examination of a thigh bone and two forearm bones.

“We can conclude from the evidence that we have habitual bipedalism, plus quadrupedal arborealism, which is what is observed for early hominids and then gradually turns into the obligate bipedalism in Homo,” said a co-author of the study, Jean-Renaud Boisserie , from the University of Poitiers.

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Other experts, though, have raised scepticism about the study. Prof. Bernard Wood of George Washington University, who was the co-author of a prior study that found Sahelanthropus was not typically bipedal, called the paper “shoddy.”

Guardian quotes him as saying “These critically important fossils deserve better treatment than this shoddy paper provides. The study cherrypicks evidence, ignores recent studies that point to different conclusions than the ones the authors try to defend, and it fails to explore other equally, if not more likely, functional interpretations of these fossils.

(With inputs from agencies)

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