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Family Ties: The Primates

The first primate was This lineage gave rise to the How has our evolutionary history made us who we are today? The earliest hominids (human-like apes) were not only social, but cooperative, and evolved into the most primitive human social group, the hunter-gatherer:

  • male - hunter of meat
  • female - gatherer of vegetable matter What do these two types of foraging strategies require, and what genetically-based behaviors might confer a selective advantage to each sex?


    Our Favorite Ape: Homo sapiens

    Paleoanthropology is the study of human origins and evolution. Because humans and chimpanzees have existed as separate species for only a few million years, this branch of science examines only a very small, recent portion of the fossil record.

    Terms to know:

    REMEMBER: HUMANS DID NOT EVOLVE FROM MONKEYS OR APES! No scientist would ever say that!

    It is correct to say only that humans, apes, and monkeys all diverged from a common anthropoid ancestor, evolving into different species due to natural selection and the other factors that can drive macroevolution.


    The earliest fossil members of our genus (Homo) range in age from about 2.5 to 1.6 million years, and are classified as Homo habilis:


    Homo erectus shared common ancestry with H. habilis, and shows up in the fossil record from about 1.8 million to 0.5 million years ago:

    Homo sapiens neanderthalensis , named for the Neander Valley in Germany where its fossils were first found, may have arisen from an H. erectus-like ancestor, as H. erectus is known to have migrated into both Europe and Asia (timing uncertain).

    There's a good deal of argument about how anatomically modern Homo sapiens sapiens came onto the scene, but it's generally agreed that we originated in Africa, where all the oldest hominid fossils are found. Here's a nice overview of our hominid relatives, for those who would like to delve a little deeper.

    What makes humans different from the other great apes?


    Let's talk about some of that behavior right now.