You are on page 1of 6



In the 8 million years or so since the earliest ancestors of humans diverged from the apes, called hominids, have lived on the Earth. This list is getting longer since scientists discover new fossils; the hominid family tree grows new branches. Over the millions of years, most of the species existed, hominids changed; they evolved; some diverged and became new species. Hominid species were changing over periods of hundreds of thousand of years, adapting to new environmental conditions. Human evolution is the lengthy process of change by which people originated from apelike ancestors. It refers to the evolutionary process leading up to the appearance of modern humans. Scientific evidence shows that the physical and behavioural traits shared by all people originated from apelike ancestors and evolved over a period of approximately 6 million years.


Darwins theory of evolution was outlined in his path breaking work The Origin of Species which was published in 1859. Darwins theory of evolution includes: Variation (there is variation in every population) Competition (organisms compete for limited resources) Offspring (organisms produce more offspring than can survive) Genetics (organisms pass genetic traits on to their offspring) Natural Selection (Those organisms with the most beneficial traits are more likely to survive and reproduce) The main thesis propounded by him was that species have evolved due to minor variations, inherited by the offspring, and will end up in the emergence of new species, in individual members of species. He pointed out that humans were as much a product of evolution as other living beings. It has been argued that the total time that has been elapsed since the emergence of life is not sufficient to account for the large number of species that has evolved. According to Stephen Jay Gould, Darwinian Theory indicates very slow and gradual changes. One of the earliest defining human traits, Bipedalism - the ability to walk on two legs evolved over 4 million years ago. Other important human characteristics - such as a large and complex brain, the ability to make and use tools, and the capacity for language -- developed more recently. Many advanced traits - including complex symbolic expression, art, and elaborate cultural diversity - emerged mainly during the past 100,000 years.

Humans are primates who evolved 70 million years ago. For several million years they evolved as competent tree dwellers. Their features prehensile hands and feet, extensive use of forelimbs, stereoscopic vision were designed for adaptation to an arboreal habitat. Physical and genetic similarities show that the modern human species, Homo sapiens, has a very close relationship to another group of primate species, the apes. Humans and the great apes of Africa chimpanzees and gorillas share a common ancestor that lived between 8 and 6 million years ago. Humans first evolved in Africa, and much of human evolution occurred on that continent. The fossils of early humans who lived between 6 and 2 million years ago come entirely from Africa.

Australopithecine is an African apelike species evolved probably around 6 million years ago with two skeletal characteristics that set it apart from apes: Small canine teeth (the teeth on either side of the four front teeth) compared to the long canines found in almost all other primates Bipedalism was the primary mode of locomotion The name australopithecine means southern ape, in reference to South Africa where the first known fossils were found. Many more australopithicine fossils have been found in the Great Rift Valley in eastern Africa, in countries including Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya, and Chad.

Australopithecus afarensis (3.6 2.9 million years ago) is one of the longest-lived and bestknown early human species. Its geographical range is in Eastern Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania). It had both ape and human like characteristics. The species was formally named in 1978 following a wave of fossil discoveries at Hadar (Ethiopia) and Laetoli (Tanzania). It had a very low forehead, a face that projected far forward and a very prominent brow ridge. A. afarensis is the earliest species for which we have reliable brain and body size estimates. The brain of A. afarensis was about one-third the size of the average modern human brain, or about the same size as a modern apes brain. Males and females varied significantly in body size. Males also typically had large crests on top of their skulls while females did not. The knee and pelvic bone structure of A. afarensis were very humanlike suggesting that A. afarensis walked upright. A. afarensis children grew rapidly after birth and reached adulthood earlier than modern humans. This meant A. afarensis had a shorter period of growing up than modern humans have today, leaving them less time for parental guidance and socialization during childhood. A. afarensis probably inhabited the savannas and open woodlands where they likely found fruits, seeds, and roots. A. afarensis had mainly a plant-based diet, including leaves, fruit, seeds, roots, nuts, and insects and probably the occasional small vertebrates, like lizards. Dental microwear studies indicate they ate soft, sugar-rich fruits, but their tooth size and shape suggest that they could have also eaten hard, brittle foods too probably as fallback foods during seasons when fruits were not available. Their adaptations for living both in the trees and on the ground helped them survive for almost a million years as climate and environments changed. Another A. afarensis site was discovered in northern

Tanzania at Laetoli. In addition to fossilized bones of A. afarensis, researchers in 1978 discovered trails of bipedal human footprints preserved in hardened volcanic ash over 3 million years ago. The footprints provided irrefutable evidence that Australopithecines regularly walked upright. Height 4 feet 11 inches 3 feet 5 inches Weight (kg) 42 29

Male Female

Lucy (3.2 million years ago) is a partial skeleton of a female discovered in 1974 in Hadar, Ethiopia. She had long arms, short legs, an apelike chest and jaw, and a small brain but a relatively humanlike pelvisthat bipedal locomotion preceded the development of a larger (more humanlike) brain in hominine evolution. She stood about 3 ft 7 in. tall and weighed about 27 kg. She has not been found in association with stone tools, and was clearly sexually dimorphic.

Robust Australopithicines (2.7 million years ago ) had wide molars and premolars and a facial structure which indicates that these Australopithicines chewed their food, primarily tough, fibrous plants, powerfully and for long periods. Several robust species have been identified, and the last robust Australopithicines died out about 1.4 million years ago.

Australopithecus anamensis (4.2 3.9 million years ago) has a combination of traits found in both apes and humans. Its geographical range is in Eastern Africa (Lake Turkana, Kenya and Middle Awash, Ethiopia). A. anamensis probably walked upright. The upper end of the tibia (shin bone) of this species shows an expanded area of bone, indicative of regular bipedal walking support of body weight on one knee at the time. Long forearms and features of the wrist bones suggest these individuals probably climbed trees as well. Australopithecus anamensis individuals had thickly-built, long narrow jaws with their side rows of teeth arranged in parallel lines. Their strong jaws combined with heavily enamelled teeth suggest A. anamensis individuals may at times have eaten hard, abrasive foods, but they likely were plant-eaters in general, relying on both fruits and tough foods such as nuts. Jaw remains suggest that this species was the direct ancestor of Australopithecus afarensis, and possibly the direct descendent of a species of Ardipithecus. The teeth of A. anamensis were covered with a layer of enamel much thicker than that of Ar. ramidus, suggesting a diet of hard-to-chew foods. The thickened enamel is also a trait characteristic of all later hominids.

In size and shape, however, the teeth of A. anamensis were primitive relative to later hominids. This species was possibly the size of female chimpanzee, yet there is also evidence of strong male-female body size difference (sexual dimorphism). The sites where remains of A. anamensis have been found were forests and woodlands that grew around lakes.

Australopithecus africanus (3.3 2.1 million years ago) was discovered by Prof. Raymond Dart in 1924. This was the first early human species to be found on the continent of Africa. Its geographical range is in Southern Africa mainly in South Africa. It was nearly identical in body and brain size to A. afarensis. Like A. afarensis, the pelvis, femur (upper leg), and foot bones of A. africanus indicate that they were bipedal, but its shoulder and hand bones indicate they were also adapted for climbing. A. africanus showed marked differences in size between males and females. Although the teeth and jaws of A. africanus were much larger than modern human teeth, they are still more similar to ours than to the teeth of apes. It had a rounder cranium housing a large brain and smaller teeth. The upper and lower jaws of A. africanus were also fully rounded in front, like those of modern humans, and their canine teeth were smaller on average than those of A. afarensis. A. africanus individuals probably inhabited open woodlands. A. africanus ate tough foods but also had a very variable diet including softer fruits and plants. Male Female Height 4 feet 6 inches 3 feet 9 inches Weight (kg) 41 30

The Genus Homo first evolved at least 2.4 million years ago. The most significant difference between members of this genus and australopiths, with which they overlapped, was their significantly larger brains.

Homo habilis (2.4 1.4 million years ago) is one of the earliest members of the genus Homo. Its name which means handy man was given because this species was thought to represent the first stone toolmaker. It was discovered at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania in the early 1960 by the Leakey team. It has a slightly larger braincase and smaller face and teeth than in Australopithecus. The bulge of Brocas area, essential for speech, is visible in one H. habilis brain cast, indicating that the species may have been capable of rudimentary speech. The average height was 3 ft 4 inches and weight was 32 kg. Postcranial anatomy indicates that it spent time in trees, but was bipedal when on the ground. Crude tools found along with H. habilis remains provide further evidence that this species could shape stone. Limb bones suggest that the species walked upright efficiently, and the fossil of a hand suggests that H.

habilis was capable of precise manipulation of objects. They shared the ability of their earlier ancestors to map resources over the landscape, their intelligence amplified by tool making. They may have lived in larger groups and had a very rudimentary social organisation.

Homo erectus (1.89 million 143,000 years ago) - Its geographical range is in Northern, Eastern and Southern Africa, Western Asia (Dmanisi, Republic of Georgia), and East Asia (China and Indonesia). Fossils of H. erectus has been found in Modjokerto and Sangiran in Indonesias Solo river valley (1.8 1.6 million years ago). Hominid bones and stone tools from Longgupu cave in S. C. China (2 million years ago) with only 2 stone tools i.e. crude choppers. The latest Asian H. erectus finds came from Java and from Narmada in India which date to about 230,000 years ago discovered by Eugne Dubois and was a very successful species of the middle period. H. erectus were the first early humans to make hearths, to eat significant amount of animal meat and bone marrow and to care for the old and weak. He turned to hunting for his food. Erectus developed tools, weapons, and fire and learned to cook his food. He travelled out of Africa into China and Southeast Asia and developed clothing for northern climates. Only his head and face differed from modern man. Like habilis, the face had massive jaws with huge molars, no chin, thick brow ridges, small canines, and a long low skull. Though proportioned the same, he was sturdier in build and much stronger than the modern human. The brain size was between 800-1000 cc. They had effective language skills. Historians believe that Homo erectus began as gatherers but advanced over many generations into hunters. The women likely stayed close to home where they cared for children and gathered nuts, fruit and leaves for eating. With the discovery of fire, Homo erectus became even more adept at survival. Fire allowed them to cook their food, to stay warm in cool environments, and to utilize caves as shelter. The species may have survived for more than 1.5 million yrs. H. erectus was the first human form flexible and mobile enough to adapt to temperature with the aid of more elaborate toolkits and by domesticating fire. A candelabrum is a multiregional theory that H. erectus left Africa and travelled to Europe, Asia and Indonesia. Fossil evidence has convinced some that from these places Homo erectus developed into Modern Humans. The Turkana boy is a youthful Homo erectus, whose fossil was discovered by Kamoya Kimeau and Richard Leakey in 1984.

Homo Neanderthal Neanderthalensis (250,000 30,000 years ago) is a robust human type that originated in Europe. Their average cranial capacity was 1,427 cc with a range of 1,250 cc to 1,700 cc, the largest of any Homo. Their geographic range is mostly in Europe, Western Asia (Israel, Iraq, and Uzbekistan), and Libya in N. Africa. They were first discovered in Neander Valley, Germany in 1856. Distinctive cranial features of Neanderthals included: prominent brow ridges; low, sloping foreheads; a chinless and heavy, forward-jutting jaw; and extremely large front teeth. The shoulders and pelvis were wider, the rib cage more conical in shape, and the forearms and lower legs shorter. The unique anatomy of Neanderthals probably reflects the fact that they were the first hominid to spend extensive periods of time in extremely cold environments, having evolved in Europe at the onset of the most recent glaciation of that continent. Neanderthals were short, stout, and powerful. Cranial

capacity equalled or surpassed that of modern humans, though their braincases were long, low, and wide. Their limbs were heavy, but they seem to have walked fully erect and had hands as capable as those of modern humans. They were cave dwellers who used fire, wielded stone tools and wooden spears to hunt animals, buried their dead, and cared for their sick or injured. They may have used language and may have practiced a primitive form of religion.

Homo sapiens (100,000 years ago to present) which means consciously thinking man. Early anatomically modern Homo sapiens fossils have come from sites in Sudan, Ethiopia, South Africa, and Israel. They used knives, spears, bow, and arrows. This species is distinguished by large brain size, a forehead that rises sharply, small eyebrow ridges, a prominent chin, and lighter bone structure than H. heidelbergensis. They had a brain with large frontal regions for conscious and reflective thought which gave them advantages of intelligence over other species. Even in those 100,000 years, anatomical trends toward smaller molars and decreased bone mass can be seen in the Homo sapiens fossil record. About 40,000 years ago, with the appearance of the Cro-Magnon culture, tools became markedly more sophisticated, incorporating a wider variety of raw materials such as bone and antler. They also included new implements for making clothing, engravings, and sculptures. Fine artwork, in the form of decorated tools, beads, ivory carvings of humans and animals, clay figurines, musical instruments, and cave paintings, appeared over the next 20,000 years. Late Homo species, including Neanderthals and Homo sapiens, evolved large and complex brains, leading eventually to language, and developed culture as an increasingly important aspect of human life.