Where Do Humans Come From?
The first primate-like animals to evolve were Plesiadapiformes. These animals were comparable to a squirrel, and eventually became extinct. They were similar to primates, but not true primates.
The first proper primates were Prosimians (Derivation of this word: Pro means before; simi means ape). These were commonly small, long snouted, nocturnal animals. Present day prosimians include Lemurs, Tarsiers and Bush Babies, and the group has a moderate level of diversity; however, far less diversity than in the past. (eg. Giant species of Lemurs existed until 2,000 years ago; perhaps with some individuals not becoming extinct until as recent as 500 years ago).
Anthropoids emerged as a more advanced group of primates between 55 and 60 million years ago. These animals had separated and evolved into two distinct groups by around 40 million years ago. One group was the ancestors of the modern Tarsiers, and the other, the ancestors of modern monkeys, apes and humans.
Fossil records together with molecular analysis techniques, suggest that the ancestors of humans separated from the ancestors of the great apes, no more than 10 million years ago. Early human evolution shows the existence of two closely related genera (Homo and Australopithecus) over a million years ago in Africa.
- Australopithecus is thought to have become extinct as a result of climate changes
- Fossil records show the existence of several species of the genus Homo, including Homo erectus, Homo floresiensis,
Homo neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens. Homo sapiens is the only living member of these genera.
Family Hominidae (Humans)
The origin of Humans (Homo sapiens) has been debated over time. It is believed by many that modern humans originated around 200,000 years ago in Africa. Humans are now found on every continent on earth. Humans are bipedal, sexual dimorphism is somewhat reduced compared to other hominids and they have slender skeletons compared to their taxonomical family fellows.
Like most other primates, humans have a slow rate of maturity, are long-lived and usually produce a single offspring at a time. Humans are omnivorous, until relatively recent years they survived as hunter-gatherers, consuming both animals and plants. Humans have complex social structures and are generally monogamous.
Hominids would be a category classifying the humans (H. sapiens) and its extinct relatives such as: Gigantopithecus, Ardipithecus, Orrorin, Kenyanthropus, Australopithecus (Praeanthropus) and Paranthropus, although, a space for taxonomical discrepancies should be expected.
The word “hominid” in terms of primatology may be easily confused with “hominoids”, “hominine”, “hominin” and human.