For example, what should I call the animal that came before ape and human (each version of some object)?


You might be looking for the word progenitor. This word is commonly used to describe a species that gave rise to another. For instance, "Australopithecus is the progenitor of modern hominid species."


Biologists often speak of a "common ancestor" when referring to a species which no longer exists, but from which two or more other species have evolved.

tinyD makes a good point in the comments. "Most recent common ancestor" would be the most precise term.

  • Although in practice it's likely to be the case, I'm not sure "common ancestor" need imply a species which no longer exists. – FumbleFingers Nov 9 '11 at 13:54
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    If you want to be more precise, most recent common ancestor may be better, since plain 'common ancestor' covers a vast range of possible organisms. – tinyd Nov 9 '11 at 15:46

If I understand you, you might be talking about - evolution branch, more specifically and technically correct - you might be talking about biological classification (see also taxonomic rank).

Specifically apes and humans are both in superfamily of hominoidea (see changes of taxonomy).

  • thx...This is what am exactly looking for ...but i need a generic name instead of hominoidea – ba1a Nov 9 '11 at 10:42
  • What do you mean generic? In biological classification hominoidea is an instance of superfamily (however do note that this is very exact and technical meaning i.e. read the wikipedia article) – Unreason Nov 9 '11 at 10:46

a common ancestor

works for a number of similar 'commonality' situations, when the similarities are derived from the same source.

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