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Spanning Evolution: The Hominid Family Tree

Part of Evolution For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Fossils for a large number of hominid species, including pre-human primates and human primates, have been found by paleontologists. As shown in this chart, various hominid species have been identified from fossil remains. Take a look these distant and not-so-distant relations:

Species*
and
Where Found
Lived (mya= million years ago) Interesting Characteristics
A. anamensis

Kenya

4.2 to 3.9 mya Probably walked upright
A. afarensis

Ethiopia, Kenya

3.6 to 2.9 mya Walked upright. Most famous member (to us anyway) is Lucy, the
nearly complete fossil found in 1974
A. africanus

South Africa

3 to 2 mya Teeth more human-like than ape-like, probably bipedal
A. aethiopicus

Ethiopia

2.7 to 2.3 mya Considered a transitional species between A. afarensis and A.
boisei
A. garhi

Ethiopia

2.5 mya Possibly the earliest tool user
A. boisei

Tanzania, Ethiopia

2.3 to 1.4 mya Formerly considered to be a direct human ancestor until H.
habilis was discovered
A. robustus

South Africa

1.8 to 1.5 mya May have used tools to dig up edible roots
H. rudolfensis

Kenya, Tanzania

2.4 to 1.8 mya Bipedal with a large brain
H. habilis

Kenya

2.3 to 1.6 mya “Handy man”; used tools, brain larger and more humanshaped,
possibly capable of rudimentary speech
H. ergaster

Eastern and South Africa

1.9 to 1.4 mya Made some nice tools, had smaller teeth
H. erectus

Republic of Georgia, Kenya, China, Indonesia and Europe

1.9 to 0.3 mya (and possibly 50,000 years ago) Definitely used tools, probably discovered fire, andmay have
lived at same time as modern humans
H. heielbergensis

Africa, Europe

600,000 to 100,000 years ago Brain size equal to modern humans, found with tools sharp
enough to slice through animal hides, almost certainly used
fire
H. neanderthalensis

Europe,Middle East

250,000 to 30,000 years ago Lived mostly in cold climates, shared the earth with H.
sapiens, may have had a complex social system that care for the
elderly and burial rituals
H. sapiens

Worldwide

100,000 years ago to today Large brains (not always used) and ability to manipulate tools,
situations, and the emotions of other H. sapiens

*Note: The A or H in the species’ names is scientific shorthand. Instead of writing Australopithecus, for example, scientists simply write A. The term Australopithecus speaks to the origin of the fossil: southern Africa. H, of course, stands for Homo, which means man. The name Homo sapiens means wise man.