Great ape

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The Hominidae (anglicized hominids, also known as great apes[notes 1] or humans and great apes), as the term is used here, form a taxonomic family, including four extant genera: chimpanzees, gorillas, humans, and orangutans.[1] In the past, the term was used in the more restricted sense of humans and relatives of humans closer than chimpanzees.

A number of known extinct genera are grouped with humans in the Homininae subfamily, others with orangutans in the Ponginae subfamily. The most recent common ancestor of the Hominidae lived roughly 14 million years ago,[2] when the ancestors of the orangutans speciated from the ancestors of the other three genera.[3] The ancestors of the Hominidae family had already speciated from those of the Hylobatidae family, perhaps 15-20 million years ago.[3][4]

Contents

History

On July 19, 2001, a 7-million-year-old fossil skull, classified as Sahelanthropus tchadensis and nicknamed "Toumaï", was discovered in Chad, Africa. It is possibly the earliest hominine fossil ever found. In addition to its age, Toumaï, unlike the three- to four-million-year younger gracile australopithecine dubbed "Lucy", has a relatively flat face without the prominent snout seen on other pre-Homo hominids.[5] There is some dispute over the importance of Sahelanthropus tchadensis. Professor Daniel E. Lieberman, has suggested this previously unknown species may be a direct ancestor of modern humans (or at least closely related to a direct ancestor). Others such as Professor Bernard Wood argue that one fossil is not enough to make such a claim because appearance is an unreliable method of determining evolutionary relations.[6]

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