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Virtual cranial reconstruction of Sahelanthropus tchadensis

Nature volume 434, pages 755759 (07 April 2005) | Download Citation



Previous research in Chad at the Toros-Menalla 266 fossiliferous locality (about 7 million years old) uncovered a nearly complete cranium (TM 266-01-60-1), three mandibular fragments and several isolated teeth attributed to Sahelanthropus tchadensis 1,2,3. Of this material, the cranium is especially important for testing hypotheses about the systematics and behavioural characteristics of this species, but is partly distorted from fracturing, displacement and plastic deformation. Here we present a detailed virtual reconstruction of the TM 266 cranium that corrects these distortions. The reconstruction confirms that S. tchadensis is a hominid and is not more closely related to the African great apes4,5. Analysis of the basicranium further indicates that S. tchadensis might have been an upright biped, suggesting that bipedalism was present in the earliest known hominids, and probably arose soon after the divergence of the chimpanzee and human lineages.

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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, Centre National d'Appui à la Recherche au Tchad), the Ministère Français de l'Éducation Nationale (Faculté des Sciences, Université de Poitiers), Ministère de la Recherche (CNRS: Départment SDV & ECLIPSE), Ministère des Affaires Étrangères (DCSUR Commission des fouilles, Paris, et SCAC Ambassade de France à N'Djaména), the Revealing Hominid Origins Initiative (co-principal investigators F. C. Howell and T. D. White), the American School of Prehistoric Research, Harvard University, and the Swiss National Science Foundation, for support; the MultiMedia Laboratorium, University of Zürich (P. Stucki); EMPA Dübendorf, Switzerland, for industrial computed tomography (A. Flisch); all the MPFT members; and S. Riffaut, X. Valentin, G. Florent and C. Noël for technical support and administrative guidance.

Author information


  1. Anthropologisches Institut/MultiMedia Laboratorium, Universität Zürich-Irchel, Winterthurerstrasse 190, 8057 Zürich, Switzerland

    • Christoph P. E. Zollikofer
    •  & Marcia S. Ponce de León
  2. Peabody Museum, Harvard University, 11 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA

    • Daniel E. Lieberman
    • , Franck Guy
    •  & David Pilbeam
  3. Laboratoire de Géobiologie, Biochronologie et Paléontologie Humaine, CNRS UMR 6046, Faculté des Sciences, Université de Poitiers, 40 Avenue du Recteur Pineau, 86022 Poitiers Cedex, France

    • Franck Guy
    • , Patrick Vignaud
    •  & Michel Brunet
  4. Université de N'Djamena, BP 1117, N'Djamena, Tchad

    • Andossa Likius
    •  & Hassane T. Mackaye


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Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Michel Brunet.

Supplementary information

Excel files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Table S1

    Craniometric measurements of the virtual reconstruction of the TM 266-01-60-1 Sahelanthropus tchadensis cranium.

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