Human Evolution

Macroevolution -- Evolution homepage -- BIO 311D homepage

Fact: Hominids (the lineage of Australopithecus and Homo) and apes diverged from a common ancestor about five million years ago.

Fact: Remains of different Australopithecus species dated back to 4.5 - 1.5 million years ago.

The oldest hominid was Ardipithecus ramidus (earlier calledAustralopithecus ramidus), which lived years ago.

A more advanced hominid, Australopithecus anamensis lived years ago.

The most widely accepted model of human evolution regards Australopithecus afarensis as the common ancestor of other Australopithecus species (A. africanus, A. robustus, A. boisei) and early humans.

Australopithecus afarensis, or as it became known, "Lucy", from Hadar, Ethiopia.

Reconstructed male A. afarensis based on a skull found at Hadar, Ethiopia.

Richard Leakey with some of his findings.

Skull of the Homo habilis 1470. 1.9 million years old.

Fact: H. habilis lived between 2.5 - 1.5 million years ago. This species was already a toolmaker.

The skeleton of a young (appr. 12 years old) Homo erectus, the "Turkana boy".

Skullcap of Homo erectus from Ceprano, Italy. Approximately 800,000 - 900,000 years old.

The migration and distribution of H. erectus in Europe. Dots indicate archeological sites.

Fact: H. erectus spread out of Africa to Europe and Asia. Remains of this species date back to 1.8 million to 300,000 years ago.

This cave near Shanidar, northern Iraq, was inhabited by humans for almost 100,000 years.

Fact: Archaic forms of modern humans (H. sapiens) appeared first in the fossil record about 350,000 years ago.

Fact: The Neandertal men (H. sapiens neanderthalensis) lived between 150,000 - 30,000 years ago.

Fact: Modern humans (H. sapiens sapiens) evolved about 50,000-35,000 years ago.

Evolutionary trends in Hominid evolution

The brain size in the Hominid lineage from Australopithecus to Homo increased dramatically from about 500 to 1350 cubic centimeters.

Sizes of the brain and skull of the chimpanzee (top), Australopithecus afarensis (middle), and modern humans (bottom).

Biological Evolution and Linguistic Diversification

Diversification of languages parallels strikingly the evolutionary process, although the underlying processes are different. Languages, like new species, arose in isolation accumulating more and more differences over time.

The Dawn of Agriculture

Fact: Agriculture started about 11,000 years ago.

Genetic similarities in Hominoids

Similarities between the chromosomes of the human (left) and the chimpanzee (right). Note that the existing difference in chromosome number between these species (46 vs. 48) is the result of the fusion of the chimpanzee chromosomes #2 and #3.


One Giant Step for Mankind

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