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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Jaw Sparks Rethink

PARIS () -- A partial jaw unearthed last year in Africa is that of a previously unknown species of human ancestor, shaking up long-held certainties about man's origins, scientists said Monday.

Dubbed Australopithecus bahrelghazali, it was discovered in Chad, the first Australopithecus to be found as far west on the African continent. Eastern Africa has long been though by scientists to be the "cradle" of today's humans. Australopithecines -- human predecessors that appeared after the evolutionary split away from the ancestors of modern apes -- gave rise to the group called Homo, which includes modern people.

The discovery also means scientists can no longer be sure about when the evolutionary split between apes and humans occurred. The jawbone has a confusing set of characteristics: a combination of the evolved human trait of molars with the three-root teeth typical of chimpanzees and other apes.