Join for Free!
121905 members

table of contents table of contents

Home » Tutorials » The Origins of Life » The Hominids

The Hominids
- The Origins of Life

Although humans in today's world are the most advanced species on the planet, we previously shared the exact same genetic information of other animals in today's world.

But all in all, the human ancestral line involves the hominid family, who diversified from the apes around 6 to 8 million years ago. Since then our evolutionary path has proved to be nothing short of phenomenal

6 to 8 million years ago – The Early Hominids

Since this sort of timescale is massive in terms of the time humans have existed, there is little evidence to back up any solid theories as to the exact date that hominids diversified from their previous fellow primates.

Previous scientific evidence pointed towards Europe being the origin of this occurrence though more recent research suggests that early hominids may have originated in  Africa and migrated South.

The most famous example of evidence supporting this era is the skeleton “Lucy”, found in Ethiopia, in the African continent, where evidence dates her life at about 3 million years ago.

As the only remains from this period are bones, that have survived the test of time, skeletal features have helped us define the evolutionary process between primates and more modern but previous versions of today’s man.

The palaeoanthropologists who discovered such remains like Lucy mapped the subtle evolutionary changes in the skeletal structure of apes and what we define as early hominids, a distant ancestor of our present species.

The Australopithecines

The remarkable evolutionary chain that we follow here involves the australopithecines, Lucy being such a creature. We have little evidence of how these primates actually behaved, but we can distinguish noted differences such as a change in the size of the australopithecines head, pertaining to more like a modern mans.

One deduction made from evidence is that the early hominids were the first of the evolutionary line to move away from the jungle and into the open lands. This could have been a result of increased competition in the jungle, and therefore they diversified to the new location, and then returned to the jungle due to their inability to fit in the ecological niche at present

In summary, three distinct species of the genus Australopithecus existed between 5 and 2 million years ago, all of which exhibited bipedal motion during their existence on Earth.

Australopithecus afarensis

Meaning “southern ape from afar”, this species probably roamed the Earth around 4 million years ago. This name was given due to the discovery of remains in Ethiopia in the early 20th century, where its discoveries in East Africa are restricted to this area, the Afar Triangle in Ethiopia

Australopithecus africanus

Believed to have derived from Australopithecus africanus, this species would have superceded the afarensis species due to its more aptly suited genome. The species remained roughly the same height, though continued to develop long term into a species more similar to man

Australopithecus robustus and Australopithecus boisei

It is thought that these two species are in some way indirectly related to the long term ancestry of modern man.

Early Species of Homo

Around 2 million years ago, a significant change was occurring in the size of brain of the australopithecines. The change in overall structure of the species meant that taxonomists gave an entirely new genus to the species. The species of homo pertains to the more recent ancestral line of modern man, homo meaning the same as, and sapiens pertaining to ‘man’. This certainly seems relevant when looking in hindsight.

The first glimmers of intelligence were beginning to appear in these species that is comparable to modern man. Basic blunt stone tools were beginning to be used, which could be used in a variety of ways in the hominids daily lives. For example, the tools could be used for carving out their prey, or using a stone to smash branches of trees for wood.

This in turn gave them the chance once again to survive out in the open land, as perhaps their distinct ancestors tried but were less prepared and evolved. This competitive advantage in early homo species was a result of natural selection itself, and thus a critical stage in the development of man.

rating: 4.07 from 1616 votes | updated on: 1 Jan 2000 | views: 898326 |

Rate tutorial: