August 22, 2007 (PhysOrg.com) – Ten million-year-old fossils discovered in Ethiopia show that humans and apes probably split six or seven million years earlier than widely thought, according to landmark study released Wednesday.

The handful of teeth from the earliest direct ancestors of modern gorillas ever found — one canine and eight molars — also leave virtually no doubt, the study’s authors and experts said, that both humans and modern apes did indeed originate from Africa…

“This is a major breakthrough in our understanding of the origin of humanity,” Yohannes Haile-Selassie, a physical anthropologist at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, told AFP.

The most startling implication of the find, the scientists agree, is that our human progenitors diverged from today’s great apes — including gorillas, orangutans and chimpanzees — several million years earlier than widely accepted research based on molecular genetics had previously asserted…

“We know nothing about how the human line actually emerged from apes,” the authors of the paper noted…

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