Humans

Sometime after the appearance of the australopithecines, new hominids appeared that are classified in the genus Homo. Extinct and living members of this genus are called humans. Many fossil humans have physical structures that are transitions between those of australopithecines and of modern humans.

Homo habilis and Homo erectus

In the early 1960s, scientists in East Africa found a hominid skull whose brain capacity was much larger than the brain capacity of Lucy's species but whose body was not much taller than Lucy's body. Importantly, the new fossils were found along with stone tools. Scientists named the new species Homo habilis, the "handy human." Fossils of H. habilis are between 1.6 million and 2.5 million years old and have a brain capacity of 590 to 690 cm3.

Later species, Homo erectus (meaning "upright human"), had a brain capacity of 800 to 1,250 cm3, or about two-thirds that of a modern human. H. erectus had a thicker skull, larger brow ridges, a lower forehead, and larger, protruding teeth than modern humans have. Some individuals were as tall as modern humans. Because H. erectus fossils have been found on several continents, scientists think that this hominid was the first to travel out of Africa. Charred animal bones indicate that H. erectus hunted and cooked its food.

Homo sapiens | H. neanderthalensis | H. heidelbergensis |

Homo georgicus | H. erectus (or H. ergaster) H. habilis

Homo sapiens | H. neanderthalensis | H. heidelbergensis |

Both H. neanderthalensis and H. sapiens may have lived in some of the same areas at the same time! Both species had the largest brains of any hominids and made advanced tools and clothing. H. sapiens seems to have been the first to make art. Of all known hominids, only H. sapiens still exists.

Robust (large-bodied) australopithecines

These species had massive teeth and jaw muscles that indicate a diet of coarse plant material. They had a unique skull structure and relatively small brains. Most of these species lived in woodlands and grasslands. Some scientists classify this group as the genus Paranthropus.

Australopithecus robustus A. boisei

I A. aethiopicus

Robust (large-bodied) australopithecines

These species had massive teeth and jaw muscles that indicate a diet of coarse plant material. They had a unique skull structure and relatively small brains. Most of these species lived in woodlands and grasslands. Some scientists classify this group as the genus Paranthropus.

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