You are on page 1of 13


Human Evolution
The Study of the evolution of Hominin
Michael Simpson

The theory of evolution is the study of the history of organisms on earth and the
change in allele frequency in a population resulting in a species adapting for
survival (International Darwim Day Foundation, 2013). In May of 1820 Charles
Darwin, an English geologist, set sail aboard the HMS Beagle on a five-year mapping
expedition exploring South America and the South Pacific (National Maritime
Museum, 2014). This expedition made observation of living organisms and shell
fossils of marine organism from sea beds (MacEvoy, Human Evolution, 2014). He
also studied the effect of earthquakes on land. Darwin discovered that the
earthquakes effect on the land would have forced organisms to adapt and to form
new habitats. In 1836 Darwin returned to England to present his Theory of Evolution
to the scientific community and in 1837 Darwin began his first documentation about
evolution and a theory which was named Natural Selection (Kinnear & Martin, 2006)
(International Darwim Day Foundation, 2013).
Darwins theory of Natural Selection can be broken down into a number of stages to
explain how evolution occurs in nature. In nature, evolution begins with organisms
producing a larger number of offsprings to increase the chance of species survival.
The death of offsprings can occur in many different ways including predators,
environmental issues, and a lack of resources (Biozone, 2014). To survive,
organisms develop ways to defend themselves against natural predators and
compete for the limited available resources. The next stage in evolution is the
discovery that not all individuals in specific specie are the same with difference in
physical and mental ability varying from one individual to another (International
Darwim Day Foundation, 2013). An example of this is Lizards. with this type of
reptile having many different physical appearances making it possible for some
individuals to find camouflage in their selected habitat providing protection from
prey, while some have a physical appearance that doesnt blend with their needed
habitats making easy for them to be spotted and attacked (Globa Change (UMICH),
2010). The individuals with hereditary traits that increase their chances to survive
and reproduce gradually appear more frequently in the species population due their
higher survival population.
The study evidence presented in nature and history needs to be completed to
discover how a specie have adapted over time. This includes studying fossils, DNA,
embryology and similar species (Biozone, 2014). A key step supporting evolution
was the discovery of fossils which depicted an early species and form of current
species. Fossils are physical evidence which portrays a former life of an organism
along with impressions and moulds of their physical remaining skeleton (Globa
Change (UMICH), 2010). Fossils ability to present older skeletons of organisms
makes it possible for scientist to compare and discover the differences between
older forms of an organism with current forms proving the theory of evolution.
Fossils are created when plants, animals and other organisms die most commonly
they decay however when conditions are correct they are preserved as fossils the
heat and pressure that occur from being buried in specific sediment causes the
tissue of the organism to release hydrogen and oxygen and leave behind a residue
of carbon this is called carbonization (Kinnear & Martin, 2006; Globa Change
(UMICH), 2010)). However the most common form of fossilization is
permineralization which is when the organisms soft tissue decays and leaves the
hard parts most commonly the bones of an organism. These fossils helped prove
that the human evolution represents evidence of physical and behavioural traits
that originate from apelike ancestors (Biozone, 2014).


Brain Size
The evolution of the Homo sapien brain size has been mapped using fossils and
skeletal remains. By studying the discovered skulls and calculating the size of the
brain cavity, Paleoneurologists have estimated the brain size. This isnt an exact
measurement as braincases contain fluids and membranes in addition to brains
(Dean Falk, 2014). This mapping displays a connection between Homo sapiens and
apelike ancestors (Figure 1). Throughout history the Homo sapien brain has adapted
and improved with the most adapted and largest brain being Homo sapien with a
1500cm3 size (MacEvoy, Human Evolution, 2014). Another factor that has been
mapped in Figure 1 is the size of the skull with the size of the skull. An increase is
size is shown making it possible for the skull to accommodate a larger brain
(MacEvoy, Human Evolution, 2014).

Figure 1:
mapping of the evolution in brain size: (Dean Falk, 2014)


As seen in Figure 1, the information diagrammed begins with the primate skulls with
continual development and adaptions to the shape and size
leading closer to the current Homo sapiens
skull (O'Connell, 2013). The comparison
between a Homo sapien brain and a
chimpanzee brain is seen in figure 2. This
depicts the level of adaption and evolution
from what is believed to be one of Homo sapiens
ancestor (O'Connell, 2013).
Figure 2: The difference in
chimpanzees and Homo sapiens skull:
(Dean Falk, 2014)
Evolution of Tooth Size
The evolution of the Homo sapiens tooth size begins with studying
the changes in ancestors dentition over time. Chimpanzee is one
of Homo sapiens ancestors. As seen in Figure 3, the teeth
arrangement and jaw size consisted of a dental arch which forms a
U shape with straight sides (Biozone, 2014). Their teeth also
consisted of very large canines for crushing and tearing of food
and materials. Along with the extra-large canine chimpanzees had
a collection of large teeth which scientists believe to be the reason
for the lack of evolution into stone tools due to their ability to crush
with their teeth. The size of their jaw was larger due to diastema
(gaps) being present between each tooth (Biozone, 2014). Another
aspect that has evolved over time is the position of the foramen magnum, the hole
where the spin attaches to the skull. In chimpanzees the positions of the foramen
magnum is closer to the back of skull making it possible for the jaw to be more
spread out.
Figure 3. Chimpanzees Skull:
(Biozone, 2014)
The Australopithecine genus (Figure 4) is one of the closest ancestors to Homo
which have been discovered through the excavation of fossils. The
teeth of the Australopithecine genus show the second stage of
adaptions between Chimpanzees and Homo sapiens (Kinnear &
Martin, 2006). The teeth of the Australopithecine genus form a
dental arch resembling a U shape which has slightly changed
from chimpanzees perfect U shape. The canines have also
reduced in the Australopithecine genus however the other teeth
have remained large. The diastema (gap) is still present in the
Australopithecine teeth arrangement (Biozone, 2014). The foramen
magnum in Australopithecine is located at the mid back of the skull
presenting evidence that it was evolving towards its current position in
the middle of the Homo sapiens skull.

Figure 4. Australopithecine Skull:

(Biozone, 2014)


The analysis of Homo sapiens teeth arrangement and jaw size

show the dental arch has changed making it less of a U shape
which follows the predicted adaptions which are seen in the last
two analyses (Biozone, 2014). A decrease in the size of the jaw is
present in Homo sapiens (Figure 5). As a result, there is a lack of
diastema between each tooth. Along with this the size of the
teeth have changed with them all resembling a similar dimension
(Kinnear & Martin, 2006). In Homo sapiens the foramen magnum
is closer to the back of the jaw. This placement made the size of
the jaw small compressing the teeth removing the diastema.
Figure 5. Homo sapiens Skull:
(Biozone, 2014)

Forehead Evolution
The evolution of the Homo sapien forehead shape has changed from the shape
resembling apes to the current Homo sapien forehead (Dorey, 2014). Gorilla
forehead shape is a di-angled flat surface which is only interrupted by the highbrow
ridge on the top of their eye sockets (see Figure 6). The shape and size of the
foreheads continued to change as seen in the Australopithecus Africanus skull
(O'Neil, 2012). This skull has a more round brain socket with a di-angled forehead
running straight down to the chin. The Homo sapien skull (Figure 6) has a more
rounded and expanded braincase along with a high forehead. Homo sapiens
forehead continues straight along till the eye sockets. The Homo sapiens forehead
isnt interrupted with a high brow ridge unlike Gorilla or Australopithecus Africanus
(Dorey, 2014; OneLife, 2012).

Figure 6. The difference in forehead shape Source:


Evolution of Skull Shape and

Apart from the evolution of the skull shape and size, the evolution of the Homo
sapiens brow ridge is one of the most distinct visible changes to the skull (Figure 7).
The Homo sapiens ancestors having very dominant
brow ridges above their eye
sockets (Biozone, 2014). It is believed that these brow ridges were used to assist
the crushing movement of the jaw while also providing a domain facial feature


which deterred predators (O'Neil, 2012; OneLife, 2012). The Australopithecus
Africanus brow ridge is less dominant than the chimps however it is still prominent
in the skull. This adaption is thought to be due to the species new knowledge of
stone tools making it possible for them to remove their crushing ability (Kinnear &
Martin, 2006). The brow ridge Homo sapiens is minimal with no need for the extra
crushing power and no need to be the dominant species with the power already in
their ability (Biozone, 2014).

Figure 7. The difference in brow ridge Source: (Biozone, 2014)

The difference between the Homo sapiens skull and Chimpanzees

The analysis of a Homo sapiens skull compared to a chimpanzee presents highlights
both differences and similarities. The skull size of chimpanzee is much smaller due
to the smaller brain size. The size of a
chimpanzees brain averages around 400
cubic centimetres in volume compared to
the Homo sapien brain which is 1.5
quarts, nearly 4 times bigger than the
chimpanzees (O'Connell, 2013). In
addition to the size of the skull, the
shape also differs. Compared to
chimpanzees, Homo sapiens have a more
rounded shape to accommodate more
developed parts of the brain (Figure 8).
The size of the skull has also contributed
to the amount of brain power and development
2014). As
in Figure
8: Chimpanzee
much of the chimpanzee skull is taken up (Biozone, 2014)
by the protruding muzzle compared to
the near vertical alignment of the Homo
sapien skull is (Kinnear & Martin, 2006).
Along with this the Homo sapien skull is
more developed in the areas of reasoning
tasks, abstract thinking, memory and
emotional attachment. This requires
extra space in the skull (Biozone, 2014).
There is evidence of this in Homo
Figure 9: Chimpanzee (L), Homo sapien (R)
sapiens with the area for the brain
(Biozone, 2014)
extending all the way to the brow ridges and along the sides of the jaw compared to
the chimpanzees where it is neatly tucked in a small dome at the back with the
brow ridges and the side of the jaws protruding from front (refer to Figure 9)
(O'Connell, 2013).
The skull Homo sapiens and chimpanzees share a number of teeth and mouth
structures (Biozone, 2014). The angular jaw bone supports many muscles needed
for the large variety of Homo sapien verbal abilities unlike the chimps jaw line is
almost straight causing chimpanzeess to have a limited vocal ability (O'Connell,
2013). The upper jaw houses the teeth is a u-shape in chimpanzees unlike Homo
sapiens who have a relaxed arch-shaped jaw (Kinnear & Martin, 2006). Homo sapien
and chimpanzees have the same amount of teeth with 20 in juveniles and 32 as an
adult however chimps have more pointed canine teeth with Homo sapiens having a
more flattened teeth row (Biozone, 2014; Kinnear & Martin, 2006; O'Connell, 2013).

Figure 10: Chimpanzee skull

(Biozone, 2014)

Figure 11: Homo sapien skull

(Biozone, 2014)

Table 1: Comparison of different genus (Kinnear & Martin, 2006; Biozone, 2014)


A. boisei

H. habilis











All Species of Homo besides

Homo sapiens are extinct
Homo erectus skull is
rounder than other scales
that have been discovered.
Homo Reudolfensis &
ergaster were discovered in
Homo erectus was found in
central and east Asis
Homo antecessor found in
Its believed that all of the
hominids, Homo habilis and
predate Homo sapiens from
after 1.8 million B.P until
300,000 B.P belonged to
Homo Erectus.
Acheulian tools
(Kinnear & Martin, 2006)
Large Molars
Brow Ridge is still present
Tall (Over 6)
Narrow pelvis
Robust, Long legs
(Biozone, 2014)

A. robustus







A. africanus

A low forehead
A flat nose and no chin
Females were smaller than males
Emerged 4.4 million years ago
A. Afarensis was discovered in
Tanzaniz, Kenya and Ethiopa
A. Bahrelghazali was discovered in
East Africa
A. africanus was discovered
southwest of Johannesburg
A. africanus was more apelike with
it having a protruding face and a
small brain with it unapelike
qualities including small canines
and a large flat molars
A. garhi was discovered in parts
with the skull, teeth and limb
bones been discovered in
(Biozone, 2014)
Bony ridge over the eyes
Human like teeth
Over 5 Males
Females around 4.8
Pelvis and leg bones have a close
resemblance to the modern man
(Biozone, 2014)
In Table 1, five different species have been compared by using six fields. These
include Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family and Genus (Biozone, 2014). The

comparison has presented a difference between the five species, this difference fell
under the Genus field with four out of the five being Australopithecus and the other
being Homo (Kinnear & Martin, 2006). The differences and similarities are seen
below in table form:
Question 5
Table 2: Similarities and differences between Homo and Australopithecus (Kinnear & Martin,
in Africa:
The fossils of the genus Australopithcus A. anamensis, A. afarensis, A. africanus
and A. garhi have only been found in Africa and nowhere else due to all of them
dying out before the first believed hominid migration out of Africa. The
Australopithcus ancestors most likely faced physical boundaries preventing the
ability to expand and explore lands outwards of what is now Africa. These physical
boundaries would include the desert and the harsh terrain however after the
climate changed in the east of Africa it made it possible for the later generations of
Australopithicus or Homo to migrate (MacEvoy, Hominid Fossil Sites and Patterns of
Hominid Dispersal, 2014; MacEvoy, Human Evolution, 2014; Net Industries, 2013;
Wanga, Ambrose, Liu, & Follmer, 1997).

Crafted Stone Tools:

Crafted stone tools have been found in areas that coincide with discovered Homo
eretus fossils, however, no stone tools have been associated with any
australopithecine fossils. This may be due to the ancestors of this genus having
large strong jaws for crunching down on food (Net Industries, 2013). Along with this
natural adaption it is believed, through the lack of animal fossils which resemble
deaths caused by humans or apelike ancestors, that the australopithecine genus
was mostly formed by vegetarians which didnt need stone crafted tools to hunt due
to a vast food supply of natural ingredients (MacEvoy, Human Evolution, 2014). The
teeth that were found in these discoveries also portray a lack of red meats in the
diet with small blunt teeth been present indicating that their diet would most likely
consist of seeds and leafs (Net Industries, 2013).

The Great African Apes

The African Great Apes do not walk erect but typically use a knuckle walk. This
movement is a form of terrestrial locomotion and involves the placing all the body
weight down on the dorsal surface of their middle phalanges (O'Neil, 2012). This
movement makes it easy to climb and distribute their weight for easier movement.
The bone structure of the great African apes supports this movement with the apes
having a uniquely shaped hip and spin which helps with this form of movement
(O'Neil, 2012).

Sedentary Society

In nomadic society, all members of a human group are concerned with the hunting
and gathering of food. This is not the case in a sedentary society with humans
discovering the ability to grow and harvest food making it possible for them to
remain stationary (Biozone, 2014). The evolution into the study of agriculture made
it possible for populations to remain in the same location and not have to worry
about a loss of supplies (Kinnear & Martin, 2006). This gave them the ability to
focus on the expansion of different fields such as education and discovery. Scientists
believe the ability to study and expand their knowledge made sedentary societies a
more advanced population. These groups, however, didnt survive against
populations which specialised in hunting due to the hunters advancement in
hunting skills (Biozone, 2014).
The most recent fossil discoveries which have been linked to the hominin ancestor
tree were in 2000, 2003 and 2009. In 2000 Orrorin tugenensis, also known as Lucy,
was discovered. This is believed to be the oldest human ancestor, estimated 5.8 to
6 million years old (Roach, 2003; Bradshaw Foundation , 2010). The Orrorin
tugenesis had small teeth compared to body size, having a resemblance to those
found in female chimpanzees (Biozone, 2014; Bradshaw Foundation , 2010). Orrorin
tugenensis also had a spherical head along with an elongated neck (Bradshaw
Foundation , 2010). This discovery proved problematic for the evolution theory
because even though Lucy presented with some Homo sapien like features and
movements, other ape like features called into question Sacannah Hypothesis
(Kinnear & Martin, 2006). Sacannah Hypothesis is the theory that the major
divergence between Hominins and the great apes was caused by the hominins
diverting out of the forests and into the grasslands. The fragmentary nature of these
remains has called in to question the reliability of these conclusions (Biozone, 2014;
Kinnear & Martin, 2006).
The discovery in 2003 proved that humans and Neanderthals lived together. This
meant they couldnt have evolved from each other (Roach, 2003). The discovery
found homo sapien skulls belonging to two adult males and one child. These are
estimated to be 160,000 years old. Before this discovery the evidence provided for
the out-of-Africas theory of evolution was based on the analysis of genetic
variations in the current human population.
This discovery resulted in the
development in another theory. This theory discusses the possibility that modern
humans evolved simultaneously around the world at roughly the same time (Roach,
2003). Timothy white who is a paleoanthropologist at the University of California
said that an early discovery in Ethiopia filled the gap in archaeological records along
with providing evidence that the argument that the Neanderthal was an evolution
branch which is unrelated to the current Homo sapiens(Roach, 2003).
The final discovery in modern history was in 2009, Ardipithecus Ramidus also known
as Ardi this disproves the most popular evolution theory that humans once
resembled the modern chimp and that we were anything like them (Biozone, 2014).
This discovery has shed more light on human evolution with one palaeontologist

remarking This find is far more important than Lucy Ardi has a large amount of
evidence to prove that it was an upright walker (biped) on the ground but a
quadruped when moving around trees. The evidence includes the shape of her feet,
pelvis and hands which suggest the biped stance was the most common form of
movement by Ardipithecus Ramidus. This discovery changed the way that scientists
are approaching the theory of human evolution (Kinnear & Martin, 2006).

Biozone. (2014). Biozone. New Zealand.
Bradshaw Foundation . (2010). Orrorin Tugenensis. Retrieved October 15, 2014,
from Bradshaw Foundation:
Dean Falk. (2014). Human Brain Evolution: What Fossils Tell Us. Retrieved October
13, 2014, from Dean Falk:
Dorey, F. (2014, June 13). Homo sapiens modern humans. Retrieved October 13,
2014, from Australian Museum:
Globa Change (UMICH). (2010, October 10). The Evolution of Theory. Retrieved
October 15, 2014, from Evolution and Natural Selection:
International Darwim Day Foundation. (2013). About Darwins Life. Retrieved
October 12, 2014, from International Darwim Day Foundation:
Kinnear, J. F., & Martin, M. (2006). Nature of Biology. Sydney: John Wiley & Sons

MacEvoy, B. (2014). Hominid Fossil Sites and Patterns of Hominid Dispersal.
Retrieved October 14, 2014, from HandPrint:
MacEvoy, B. (2014, August 10). Human Evolution. Retrieved October 15, 2014, from
National Maritime Museum. (2014). Charles Darwin and HMS Beagle. Retrieved
October 10, 2014, from Royal Museums Greenwich:
Net Industries. (2013). Human Evolution - The Hominid Fossil Record. Retrieved
October 15, 2014, from Net Industries:
& CHIMPS. Retrieved October 17, 2014, from Pawnation:
O'Neil, D. (2012). Apes. Retrieved October 15, 2014, from Anthro Palomar:
OneLife. (2012). The Evolution of the Human. Retrieved October 13, 2014, from
Roach, J. (2003, June 11). Oldest Homo Sapiens Fossils Found. Retrieved October 15,
2014, from National Geographic:
Tuttle, R. H. (2014, June 3). Human evolution. Retrieved October 14, 2014, from
Encyclopaedia Britan:
Wanga, H., Ambrose, S. H., Liu, C.-L. J., & Follmer, L. R. (1997). Paleosol Stable
Isotope Evidence for Early Hominid Occupation of East Asian Temperate
Environments. Quaternary Research, 228238.
Whitfield, M. C. (2011). Evolution. Retrieved October 16, 2014, from