If Orrorin tugenensis is truly a hominid as its discoverers describe it, the species is by far the oldest-known member of the family to which humans belong. In fact, at 6 million years old, O. tugenensis lived near the time when genetic analyses suggest our oldest hominid ancestor split from the oldest ancestor of the great apes. This means that there's a chance O. tugenensis could be the proverbial "missing link" -- or at least one of them.

Certain features, like the teeth of O. tugenensis, suggest this species could even be more closely related to Homo sapiens than the many Australopithecus species it predates. Like our molars, the molars of O. tugenensis were small compared to any of the australopithecine teeth. Their teeth also had very thick enamel like ours.

Grooves in the femurs of O. tugenensis, presumably points where muscles and ligaments attached, suggest that the species was bipedal. Unfortunately, much about this species, including the suggested close relationship between it and Homo sapiens, is extremely speculative and hotly contested.

Origins of Humankind

Which hominid is the oldest known member of the family to which humans belong? What is its age?

What are some characteristics of the Orrorin tugenensis that are similar to Humans today?




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Mrs. Dimino's Eighth Grade Life Science Classes
JFK Middle School
Port Jefferson Station, New York

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