However, scientists say the primitive cranial morphology links this fossil to even more ancient hominins, such as Sahelanthropus
and Ardipithecus, and casts doubt on previous assumptions about a direct link to the younger Australopithecus afarensis.
Some characteristics were shared with later species, while others had more in common with those of even older and more primitive early human ancestor groups such as Ardipithecus and Sahelanthropus
. "Until now, we had a big gap between the earliest-known human ancestors, which are about 6 million years old, and species like 'Lucy', which are two to three million years old.
"Toumai" (of the species Sahelanthropus
tchadensis) is around 7 million years old and is considered by some paleontologists to be the first representative of the human lineage.
On a dig in central Africa, a French paleontologist's team discovered the head bone and jaw of Sahelanthropus
tchadensis, a 'hominid' or human-like creature that would have existed seven million years ago.
The skull, unearthed in Central Africa in 2001, belongs to Sahelanthropus
tchadensis, a species controversially proposed as the earliest known member of the human evolutionary family.
9:15 PHYLOGENETIC RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN THE UPPER MO-LARS OF SAHELANTHROPUS
TCHADENS1S AND LATE MIOCENE HOMINOIDS AND HOMINIDS, Laura D.
The 27 model heads displayed in Dresden, Germany, were created using fossil remains, and includes a glimpse of sahelanthropus
tchadensis, an ancestor dated to about seven million years ago, when our 'hominid 'ancestors' first originated in Africa, the Daily Mail reported.
Other possible contenders for the earliest proto-human fossil are Sahelanthropus
tchadensis, a skull found in Chad (Brunet et al., 2002), from about 6-7 mya with a puzzling mixture of features making it difficult to classify, and Orrorin tugenensis (Senut et al., 2001) just below 6 million years old, found in Kenya.