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The fossils have been tentatively classified as members of three distinct genera-- .
Sahelanthropus was the earliest, dating 7-6 million years ago.
However, African forests were progressively giving way to sparse woodlands and dry grasslands, or savannas .
The australopithecines took advantage of these new conditions.
Over the last decade, there have been a number of important fossil discoveries in Africa of what may be very early transitional ape/hominins, or proto-hominins.
These creatures lived just after the divergence from our common hominid ancestor with chimpanzees and bonobos, during the late Miocene and early Pliocene Epochs.
The classification of Sahelanthropus has been the most in question.
In 1925 he named it (literally "southern ape from Africa").By 3 million years ago, they were common in both East and South Africa.Some have been found dating to this period in North Central Africa also.Orrorin lived about 6 million years ago, while Ardipithecus remains have been dated to 5.8-4.4 million years ago.At present, the vote is still out as to whether any of these three primates were in fact true hominins and if they were our ancestors.
In the more open environments, bipedalism would very likely have been an advantage.