(ORDO NEWS) — French and African scientists found that upright walking was first mastered not by Australopithecus or representatives of the genus Homo, but by Sahelanthropes, much more ancient primates.
The work was published in the journal Nature. The results were announced on Wednesday by the press service of the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS).
“Analysis of the structure of the femur bones of the Sahelanthropus showed that these primates were upright both when moving on the surface of the Earth and when moving along the branches of trees.
In turn, the study of the ulna bones of this hominid indicates that it grabbed tree branches in an unusual way, holding on for them with the whole palm, and not with the tips of the phalanges, as chimpanzees and gorillas do,” the message says.
Sahelanthropus (Sahelanthropus tchadensis) are ancient higher primates that lived in the central regions of Africa about 7 million years ago. Their remains were first discovered in 2002 in northern Chad.
Subsequent study of the skull and bone fragments of Sahelanthropus showed that he was a close relative of the common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees, or one of the ancestors of gorillas.
Subsequently, the opinions of scientists were divided about whether the Sahelanthropus is a close relative of man.
These disputes were due to the fact that some anthropologists doubted that Sahelanthropus tchadensis had the ability to walk upright.
An accurate answer to this question has been hampered by the fact that paleontologists have discovered only a small number of the remains of these ancient primates.
First upright primates
A group of Chadian and French paleoanthropologists led by Franck Guy, a researcher at the University of Poitiers (France), received an accurate answer to this question during a comprehensive study of one femur and two cubits of Sahelanthropus tchadensis, found in the Toros-Menalla region back in 2001.
As Guy and his colleagues note, scientists have long doubted that these remains belong to Sahelanthropus, but recently they managed to get enough evidence that they are part of the body of Sahelanthropus tchadensis, and not other ancient primates.
This allowed scientists to begin to study how this primate moved and in what environment he lived.
To do this, scientists have comprehensively studied the structure of the bones and compared them with similar parts of the body of Australopithecus, long-extinct and modern humans, and various monkeys.
This analysis showed that the Sahelanthropus femur had characteristic anatomical features that are common to humans and upright primates.
For this reason, scientists suggest that Sahelanthropus tchadensis lived in forests, but at the same time they moved on two legs both on the ground and along tree branches.
In addition to this, the scientists found that the hands of sahelanthropes had an unusual anatomy, not characteristic of both forest monkeys and higher primates.
They embraced the branches with their whole arm, and did not hold on to them with the tips of the phalanges.
This suggests that sahelanthropes could spend a significant part of their time in the forests, but they were not ideally adapted to such a life, paleoanthropologists concluded.
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