We explain what hominins are, how they originated and their evolution. Also, what are its characteristics and the types that existed.

Hominins are the different species that constituted the evolution of the human race.

What are hominins?

The term “hominins” refers to the different species of the genus Homo that make up the evolutionary process of the human being. Hominins include the erectusthe Homo sapiens and the homo neanderthalensis, among others. Currently, the only surviving species of hominins is the Homo sapiens sapiensthe current human being.

hominins belong to the biological family of hominids, a term with which it is often confused. Hominids are the biological family of bipedal primates, which includes chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans, and humans, among other animal species. Hominins are a category within hominids.

See also: Primitive man

Origin of hominins

Although there are debates about which should be considered the first hominin, hominins are believed to have appeared on Earth during the Miocene (historical period from 23 to 5 million years ago).

In the late Miocene and early Pliocene (between about 12 and 8 million years ago), there were two large groups of hominids: the dryopithecinesadapted to wooded habitats, and the ramapithecinesadapted to open field habitats.

The Ramapithecines present hominid features and survived until the Pliocene (between 10 and 3 million years ago) and it is believed that the australopithecus, which are the earliest ancestors of hominins. Its fossil remains allow us to date its existence between 4 and 2 million years ago.

Differences with hominids

Hominins are characterized by being bipedal, with an upright posture.

On many occasions these terms are often used as synonyms. However, they are terms with different meanings. The term “hominin” refers to the family of bipedal primateswhich includes orangutans, gorillas, chimpanzees and humans, among others.

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Secondly, the concept “hominin” only covers the individuals of the species of the genus Homowhich are part of the human evolutionary process.

hominin evolution

Charles Darwin postulated the theory of evolution in his book The origin of speciespublished in 1859. This theory maintains that some individuals of each species present mutations of certain biological characteristics that can be selected for by environmental conditions. This situation favors the survival of these individuals, who will have greater opportunities to transmit the mutations to their descendants.

Currently, scientists from different disciplines affirm that all species are the result of the accumulation of successive changes over a very long time.

The evolution of man was not a linear process. Archaeological evidence indicates that some hominin species coexisted over time: some became extinct and others evolved. However, a chronology can be established with the main evolutionary leaps of the genus Homo that led to the appearance of the current human being:

  • australopithecus
  • Homo habilis
  • erectus
  • homo ergaster (subspecies)
  • Homo heidelbergensis (subspecies)
  • Homo rhodesiensis (subspecies)
  • Homo sapiens
  • neanderthal man
  • Homo sapiens sapiens (subspecies)

Australopithecus afarensis

Of Australopithecus afarensis all hominins descend.

It is considered that Australopithecus is the starting point of evolution towards our species. It is a group of bipedal African hominin species that arose 4 million years ago. They were bipedal primates, lived in savannah habitats, and were vegetarians. They had an average of 450 cm3 of cranial capacity. They walked upright, which gave them a number of advantages such as freeing their hands during transfer and a frontal field of vision.

This species was capable of use stones as a rudimentary instrument, to open bones or shells and extract the meat or marrow. The best preserved specimen of this species, nicknamed “Lucy”, was found in 1974 in Ethiopia.

Two distinct and parallel evolutionary lineages descended from them.. On one hand, the Paranthropus, of greater robustness and a hard vegetable diet. On the other hand, the Homo, physically weaker but with a bigger brain. These species lived together for a million years, until the genus Homo took off evolutionarily with the Homo habilis.

Homo habilis

The Homo habilis He was the first hominin to make stone tools.

The Homo habilis (“skillful man”) was a hominin that lived in the early and mid Pleistocene2.6 million years ago.

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Your name comes from the number of lithic (stone) instruments found next to their fossils, which means that they learned to make stone tools. They reached a height of 1.40 meters and their cranial capacity was up to 700 cm.3. They developed speech, made tools, and built temporary shelters.


hominins homo erectushominins homo erectus
It is believed that the erectus He was the first hominin to master the use of fire.

The erectus migrated across Africa, Europe, Asia and Oceania from 1.5 million years ago and lived until about 500,000 years ago. His specimens reached 1.60 meters and their cranial capacity reached 1000 cm.3. They hunted small animals, lived in camps and caves, and learned to control fire.

Within the category of erectus Other hominin groups known by other names are included, such as homo ergaster. Its extinction is linked in some areas to the Toba Catastrophe Theoryfrom the lower and middle Pleistocene (the supposed eruption of the Toba supervolcano) and with the evolution towards the Homo sapiens.

homo ergaster

The homo ergaster arose in Africa between 1.9 and 1.4 million years ago. It has a greater cranial capacity (around 850 cm) than that of the Homo habilisand a size similar to that of modern humans.

There is debate among specialists whether it should be considered as a subspecies of the erectus or as a separate species. It is thought that he may have had some form of articulate language, although there is no evidence of any display of complex symbolic thought. This species was the first to migrate from Africa to Asia and part of Europe.

Homo sapiens

Homo sapiensHomo sapiens
Many specialists identify Homo heidelbergensis as archaic Homo sapiens.

The Homo sapiens is the species that evolved from the different variants of the erectus. The evolutionary transition began 500,000 years ago, but it was not until 200,000 years ago that the Homo sapiens as a distinctly separate species.

to the variety of Homo sapiens who experienced this transition is called archaic homo sapiens. Many specialists consider that the Homo antecessor and the Homo heidelbergensis belong to this category, since from them descends the Homo sapiens that led to modern man.

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The cranial capacity of the Homo sapiens reached 1500 cm3 and scientists consider that 200,000 years ago it had the same intellectual potential as that of today’s human beings. The Homo sapiens they made more elaborate tools than their predecessors, they used language more complexly and developed a symbolic intelligence, which manifests itself in the burial of the dead.

homo neanderthalensis

Some specialists consider that Neanderthal Man is a subspecies of Homo sapiens.

The “Neanderthal man” was a species that coexisted with the Homo sapiens and the Homo sapiens sapiens for thousands of years. It inhabited Europe, the Near East, the Middle East, and Central Asia approximately 230,000 to 30,000 years ago. They were hunters and lived in larger groups.

When the first fossil remains of the homo neanderthalensisscientists considered them to be a genus Homo distinct. However, today it is included as a subspecies within the genus Homo sapiens.

The reasons for its extinction are still debated.but most studies point to the numerical and adaptive superiority of the Homo sapiens sapiens. As it was, the coexistence between both groups generated biological and cultural exchanges, which led to cases of hybridization between species. This means that a part of the Neanderthal genome survives today in some percentage of the human population.

Homo sapiens sapiens

homo sapiens sapienshomo sapiens sapiens
Homo sapiens sapiens developed complex symbolic thought.

It is considered to Homo sapiens sapiens What the subspecies of Homo sapiens what are humans today. The Homo sapiens sapiens They populated Africa, Asia, Europe, Oceania and America.

The oldest remains date back 100,000 years.. They mastered group hunting techniques on large animals. They developed symbolic thinking, practiced religious rites, and represented reality in paintings and sculptures.

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  • “Homo” on Wikipedia.
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  • “Overview of Hominin Evolution”in Nature.
  • “Hominin History” in National Geographic.
  • “Hominin” in The Encyclopaedia Britannica.

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