Sahelanthropus tchadensis is one of the oldest known species in the human family tree. This species lived sometime between 7 and 6 million years ago in West-Central Africa (Chad). Walking upright may have helped this species survive in diverse habitats, including forests and grasslands. Although we have only cranial material from Sahelanthropus, studies so far show this species had a combination of ape-like and human-like features. Ape-like features included a small brain (even slightly smaller than a chimpanzee’s), sloping face, very prominent browridges, and elongated skull. Human-like features included small canine teeth, a short middle part of the face, and a spinal cord opening underneath the skull instead of towards the back as seen in non-bipedal apes.
How do we know Sahelanthropus walked upright?
Some of the oldest evidence of a humanlike species moving about in an upright position comes from Sahelanthropus. The foramen magnum (the large opening where the spinal cord exits out of the cranium from the brain) is located further forward (on the underside of the cranium) than in apes or any other primate except humans. This feature indicates that the head of Sahelanthropus was held on an upright body, probably associated with walking on two legs.