Early Hominins: Genus Homo

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The photo shows a skull that looks similar to a human skull but has prominent brow ridges.
Homo erectus. Homo erectus had a prominent brow and a nose that pointed downward rather than forward. Source: OpenStax Biology 2e

OpenStax Biology 2e

The human genus, Homo, first appeared between 2.5 and three million years ago. For many years, fossils of a species called H. habilis were the oldest examples in the genus Homo, but in 2010, a new species called Homo gautengensis was discovered and may be older. Compared to A. africanus, H. habilis had a number of features more similar to modern humans. H. habilis had a jaw that was less prognathic than the australopiths and a larger brain, at 600 to 750 cubic centimeters. However, H. habilis retained some features of older hominin species, such as long arms. The name H. habilis means “handy man,” which is a reference to the stone tools that have been found with its remains.

H. erectus appeared approximately 1.8 million years ago. It is believed to have originated in East Africa and was the first hominin species to migrate out of Africa. Fossils of H. erectus have been found in India, China, Java, and Europe, and were known in the past as “Java Man” or “Peking Man.” H. erectus had a number of features that were more similar to modern humans than those of H. habilis. H. erectus was larger in size than earlier hominins, reaching heights up to 1.85 meters and weighing up to 65 kilograms, which are sizes similar to those of modern humans. Its degree of sexual dimorphism was less than in earlier species, with males being 20 to 30 percent larger than females, which is close to the size difference seen in our own species. Herectus had a larger brain than earlier species at 775 to 1,100 cubic centimeters, which compares to the 1,130 to 1,260 cubic centimeters seen in modern human brains. Herectus also had a nose with downward-facing nostrils similar to modern humans, rather than the forward-facing nostrils found in other primates. Longer, downward-facing nostrils allow for the warming of cold air before it enters the lungs and may have been an adaptation to colder climates. Artifacts found with fossils of Herectus suggest that it was the first hominin to use fire, hunt, and have a home base. Herectus is generally thought to have lived until about 50,000 years ago.

Source:

Clark, M., Douglas, M., Choi, J. Biology 2e. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at: https://openstax.org/details/books/biology-2e


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