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What are hominids? Characteristics and the 8 main species

What are hominids? Characteristics and the 8 main species

May 1, 2024

The name of our species, that of the current human being, is that of Homo sapiens. The man who knows. This perhaps pretentious name is what we have given ourselves. But the current human being has not come out of nowhere: we are one of the different products of evolution who have had the luck to survive. And is that along the way different species, both direct ancestors and descendants of any of them, have been disappearing throughout history. To the set of these species, very similar to ours, we have denominated them historically hominids.

What is a hominid exactly? Let's talk about it throughout this article.


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Hominids: main characteristics

Traditionally and until very recently, we called hominid any current or past being that has been part of the human race, being an ancestor or being related to the current human being: Homo sapiens. From this conception of the word hominid, our species is currently the only survivor, although there have been a large number of them that have been extinguished, in some cases even coexisting and mixing with sapiens (such as the Neanderthal).

This genus is characterized by originating in Africa about six million years ago, presenting the particularity of having evolved in such a way that they could stand erect and move bipedally (although the first ancestors did it with difficulty). This bipedalism is associated with the presence of changes in bone and even the body physiognomy, presenting variations in the lower extremity, the pelvis (which should be strengthened and made wider to support the weight) and even the shape of the spine. The face and teeth have also gradually undergone changes, losing and modifying dental pieces at the same time that the diet has been changing and flattening the face.


Another of the main characteristics of hominids is the progressive increase in brain volume, being proportionally greater than that of other apes in relation to its size. This development has allowed a growing cognitive development and the emergence of a capacity for socialization and intellect increasingly well-known, which has allowed us to manufacture and use tools or create art.

Up to this moment we have been doing a brief review of the characteristics of what most of us have considered hominid until recently. However, recently there has been a small change in the classification and definition of hominid (although it does not yet enjoy great expansion): hominids are considered to be the group of beings that are part of the Hominidae family , including a large number of species of large primates such as chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, orangutans and chibones.


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Hominids or hominins?

As we have seen, the term hominid has changed throughout history and until now the term used to designate the set of species that have been part of the human race and their ancestors with a more humanoid form . However, there is a term that also includes us and that can sometimes lead to confusion: that of hominins.

This term starts from the creation of the evolutionary subfamily Homininae, which refers to and encompasses a set of beings and species with similar characteristics and ancestors that basically includes the Hominina tribe (which would include current human beings, extinct Homo species and their ancestors, like them), along with the species of the genus Pan (chimpanzees and bonobos) and the Gorillini tribe whose representatives would be the gorillas. In addition, within this category we find the Hominini, known in Casellano as homininis. Likewise, inside the Hominini we would find the genus Pan (chimpanzees and bonobos) and the bipedal moninins , of which the only living representatives are the sapiens.

However, despite the fact that according to the new classification the human being and the rest of those belonging to the genus Homo (sapiens, neanderthalensis ...) so far are now of the Hominini tribe along with the chimpanzees, the truth is that this enters into the Hominidea family and the Hominoidea family, with which it would still be correct to continue considering ourselves hominids. We would simply be referring to a larger classification in which families, subfamilies and genera that would also be incorporated they include orangutans and gibbons .

Some of the main known species

The current human being is the only survivor of the homo genre , having extinguished the rest of species that have accompanied or preceded us throughout history. But these have been multiple. Although there are more and there are even speculations that there may be other ancestors or extinct species that we do not yet know, here are some of the most recognized.


We must take into account the species that we are going to indicate are those that until recently we considered hominids but that now would enter inside the hominins, with what we are not going to refer to species like the chimpanzee, the gorilla, the orangutan or the gibbons .

1. Ardipithecus ramidus

Although it is probably the most unknown of which we are going to comment, the Ardipithecus ramidus It is the oldest of our bipedal ancestors that are known, so their discovery is important. Its best-known representative is Ardi, from the remains of which much has been recovered.

This species walked alone on its legs, but it had some anatomical difficulties that did not have a high displacement capacity: the thumbs of the feet were not even parallel to the rest of the fingers like the one on our feet but opposable. Although they had a dentition similar to that of the apes, the truth is that it was much smaller. They were still small, and there was sexual dimorphism in which the males were larger than the females.


2. Australopithecus anamensis

One of the oldest species of australopithecus and of which very few remains are preserved, it is a hominid with characteristics still very similar to those of the apes . The enamel of his dentition suggests that his diet was not only fruit but possibly omnivorous. His dentition still had asymmetric molars and premolars, and he had a robust jaw with long incisors and canines. It is considered the evolution of the ardipithecus.

3. Australopithecus afarensis

This type of australopithecus is probably the most popular, being the well-known Lucy member of this species. The cranial capacity increased with respect to their ancestors with a cranial volume of around 480 cubic cm, being able to reach a size similar to that of a current chimpanzee but in a relatively smaller body (the average would not exceed one and a half meters in the case of the males, larger than the females).


Although bipeds, The shape of the hands and feet makes it clear that they were still adapted to the arboreal life . The canines are quite small in comparison to other previous species. It is believed that his diet was mainly based on fruit, not being his dentition especially suitable for meat consumption.

4. Homo habilis

It is the first representative of the genus Homo, the homo habilis is characterized by the presence of more rounded skulls but still with a certain prognathism. Small in size, it is considered to be the first of the homininis that uses tools in a habitual way (although somewhat rough of stone, in the form of flakes).

His cranial capacity was around 600 cubic cm. It is known that they hunted, something that shows that probably began to develop more complex cognitive, strategic and communication skills.

5. Homo erectus

With thicker bones and greater cranial capacity than those of his ancestors (with a volume of between 800 and 1000 cubic cm), his pelvis resembles that of the current human being. The beginning of the domain of fire is associated to this species , as well as the elaboration of the first bifaces leaves. They were nomadic and sociable hunters, cooperating with other groups to hunt.

It is believed that the last populations may have coexisted with Homo sapiens in Asia, and was probably one of the first hominid species to travel out of Africa into Eurasia.

6. Homo antecessor

With a capacity somewhat higher than that of erectus (between 1000 and 1100 cubic cm), it is characterized for being the first species considered European (his remains have been mainly found in Atapuerca). Physically, they were graceful (although most remains are of infants) and had facial characteristics similar to those of Homo sapiens. Its height was quite greater than that of other species, reaching the meter eighty.

It is believed that it can be an ancestor of the Neanderthal and perhaps of our own species , being probably the last link between our two species. Also, it has been observed that he committed cannibalism.

7. Homo neanderthalensis

The last hominid species that became extinct , still unknown the exact reasons, and that lived and shared space with the current human being for a long time, until about 30,000 years ago. The Neanderthal man was a species adapted to the climate of a practically glacial Europe. They had a prominent superciliary arch, the forehead somewhat flatter than the members of our species, and the skull somewhat more projected backwards.

Of great physical strength although of a smaller height (around 1.65m), its cranial capacity (approximately 1500cm cubic) even exceeded ours (around 1400). It's known that they had advanced cultural elements, practicing ceremonies such as burial. They also looked after the elderly and the sick, and their tools were quite developed despite being apparently simple. They probably had a language system that was not totally supported by the articulation of sounds with the mouth and the pharynx, and they were very knowledgeable about the medium.

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8. Homo sapiens

Our species is the most recent of those cited so far. Without superciliary arcs and a high cranial capacity (although as we have seen in the Neandertals, something less than yours), modern humans showed a great facility to conquer all kinds of ecosystems. The first constructions created were probably the work of our species , and one of the most distinctive elements is that cave paintings appear with this group (although some authors consider that many are also attributable to the Neanderthals).

The sapiens appeared in Africa, emigrating first to Asia and then to Europe (where they would meet the Neanderthals) sometime between 200,000 and 150,000 years ago.

9. Other species

These are just some of the few that have received greater recognition by society and are better known to most of us. However, there are many more. In addition to the previous ones, for the moment, others such as those that follow have been studied, although the consideration of one or the other as differentiated species or as subspecies is not always clear:

  • Australopithecus garhi
  • Australopithecus africanus
  • Paranthropus aethiopicus
  • Paranthropus robustus
  • Paranthropus boisei
  • Kenyanthropus platyops
  • Homo gautengensis
  • Homo georgicus
  • Homo ergaster
  • Homo heidelbergensis
  • Homo floresiensis
  • Homo rudolfensis
  • Homo rhodesiensis
  • Homo helmei
  • Homo sapiens idaltu (possible subspecies of homo sapiens)

Most MYSTERIOUS Extinct Human Species! (May 2024).


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