Discoveries in Chad by the Mission Paléoanthropologique Franco-Tchadienne have substantially changed our understanding of early human evolution in Africa1,2,3. In particular, the TM 266 locality in the Toros-Menalla fossiliferous area yielded a nearly complete cranium (TM 266-01-60-1), a mandible, and several isolated teeth assigned to Sahelanthropus tchadensis3 and biochronologically dated to the late Miocene epoch (about 7 million years ago). Despite the relative completeness of the TM 266 cranium, there has been some controversy about its morphology and its status in the hominid clade4,5. Here we describe new dental and mandibular specimens from three Toros-Menalla (Chad) fossiliferous localities (TM 247, TM 266 and TM 292) of the same age6. This new material, including a lower canine consistent with a non-honing C/P3 complex, post-canine teeth with primitive root morphology and intermediate radial enamel thickness, is attributed to S. tchadensis. It expands the hypodigm of the species and provides additional anatomical characters that confirm the morphological differences between S. tchadensis and African apes. S. tchadensis presents several key derived features consistent with its position in the hominid clade close to the last common ancestor of chimpanzees and humans.
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We thank the Chadian Authorities (Ministère de l'Éducation Nationale de l'Enseignement Supérieur et de la Recherche, Université de N'djaména, CNAR), the Ministère Français de l'Éducation Nationale (Faculté des Sciences, Université de Poitiers), the Ministère de la Recherche (CNRS: Département SDV & ECLIPSE), the Ministère des Affaires Étrangères (DCSUR, Paris and SCAC, N'Djamena) to the Région Poitou-Charentes, the American School of Prehistoric Research, the RHOI (co-Principal Investigators F. C. Howell and T. D. White), the Armée Française, MAM and Epervier for logistical support; the scanner staff of the University Museum, the University of Tokyo (microCT scanning, G. Suwa); to the ESRF, Grenoble (W. G. Stirling, General Director, A. Bravin and C. Nemoz, ID 17); many colleagues and friends for their help, especially G. Suwa for enamel thickness measurements, P. Tafforeau for ESRF three-dimensional scan reconstructions; T. D. White for discussions; all the other members of the Mission Paléoanthropologique Franco-Tchadienne (MPFT) who joined us for field missions; S. Riffaut and X. Valentin for technical support; and G. Florent and C. Noël for administrative guidance at the MPFT.
About this article
BMC Evolutionary Biology (2011)