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Human ancestors have identity crisis

Some members of the hominid family may actually come from apes

4:06pm, February 16, 2011

The African primate known as Ardi and a couple of other fossil creatures widely regarded as early members of the human evolutionary family — or hominids, for short — may really be apes hiding in plain sight, two anthropologists say.

Hominid-like traits such as an upright stance and small canine teeth may have evolved independently in some previously excavated ancient apes, raising the possibility that alleged early hominids have been mislabeled, say Bernard Wood of George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and Terry Harrison of New York University.

Researchers have assigned African fossils dating to between 4 million and 7 million years ago to three groups of early hominids — Ardipithecus, Orrorin and Sahelanthropus — and have suggested that these lineages evolved into later hominids. But any of the fossils used to build this argument could just as easily represent now-extinct apes or hominids from dead-end

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