Spanning Evolution: The Hominid Family Tree

Part of the 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* 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. Sapiens means wise, so the name Homo sapiens means wise man.

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