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European fossils may belong to earliest known hominid

Graecopithecus’ teeth suggest it was part of the human evolutionary family, researchers argue

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2:00pm, May 22, 2017
Graecopithecus jaw

GREEK PUZZLER  This jaw and teeth previously found in Greece, along with a tooth unearthed in Bulgaria, come from a line of more than 7-million-year-old primates that might have been the oldest known hominids, a new study concludes. Other researchers are skeptical of that claim.

Europe, not Africa, might have spawned the first members of the human evolutionary family around 7 million years ago, researchers say.

Tooth characteristics of a chimpanzee-sized primate that once lived in southeastern Europe suggest that the primate, known as Graecopithecus, may have been a hominid, not an ape as many researchers assume. One tooth in particular, the second lower premolar, is telling. It features two partially fused roots, a trait characteristic of early hominids but not ancient apes, a team led by geoscientist Jochen Fuss of the University of Tübingen in Germany reports May 22 in PLOS ONE.

Scientists suspect the first hominids appeared sometime between 8 million and 6 million years ago. New age estimates for previously discovered fossils position Graecopithecus as potentially the earliest known hominid,

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