How Were All The Early Man Types Related?

Tough topic title–

Were all the versions of early man related? Spring up at different times and places?
All begin in Africa?

Start with the guys that had Homo in their scientific names and end with Homo sapiens sapiens.

My college biology left off with a couple of choices:

  1. Candelabra (looks like a pitch fork)
  2. Noah’s Ark (looks like a hand with the thumb which proposes a single, more recent source for modern humans with extinction of all the other earlier human forms – the fingers).

Text was published in 1989 so I’m sure something more up to date must be out there.

Are you driving with your eyes open or are you using The Force? - A. Foley


Ardipithecus ramidus Poorly known. Predates everything else (~4 MYA). Upright posture, very small cranial capacity.

Australopithecus. Early manlike forms living from ca. 3.8 MYA to about 2 MYA. Oldest form A. afarensis followed by A. africanus. Cranial capacity less than 600 CC.

Paranthropus. Largebodied vegetarian (mostly fruit-eating) forms deriving from and contemporaneous with Australopithecus. Sagittal ridge – the “crest” at the top of the skull to which jaw muscles were anchored. Three species: * P. robustus* – despite the name the least robust of the forms (it got named first). * P. boisei* (formerly Zinjanthropus) – larger, heavier, bigger ridge. * P. aethiopicus* – known primarily from the “Black Skull” and apparently slender and with enormous jaw muscles. (My wife and I speculate that it is an adolescent P. boisei. The paranthropines existed from about 3.5 MYA to 2 MYA and perhaps a bit beyond.

Homo habilis: Leakey’s earliest man. Probably the first tool- and fire-user. Fairly small cranial capacity, but over 600 CC, IIRC.

Homo erectus: First form to leave Africa – found in the Middle East, southern Europe, Asia, and Indonesia. Java Man, Peking Man, and a few other types belong to this species. Old synonyms include Pithecanthropus and Sinopithecus. Substantially larger cranial capacity. Primitive tool user.

Homo sapiens: Modern man and his immediate ancestors.

There are those who subdivide Homo much further, including:
Homo rudolfensis - advanced H. habilis
H. ergaster - a variant on *H. erectus, including Turkana Boy
H. heidelbergensis - “archaic Homo sapiens” to the lumpers. About 500,000 YA.
H. neanderthalensis - the name makes clear what this is. Lived from ca. 200,000 YA to about 30,000 YA. Included the “classic” forms of your childhood books, which were adapted to the rigors of Ice Age Europe, and more “normal” looking forms in the Middle East. Neanderthals averaged a larger cranial capacity than modern man does.

That’s from memory; if I can remember to do so, I’ll look up the details from my wife’s papers and post more (probably in response to questions). Corrections where my memory is slightly “off” are requested; I vouch for the general validity of the above but not for specifics, in particular dates and specific-number cranial capacities.

How they were related: lay this out on graph paper with dates. Then start drawing lines. Any combination you come up with will agree with one paleoanthropologist’s theory or another.

Probable: A. ramidus > A. afarensis > A. africanus > H. habilis > H. erectus > H. sapiens. Cut africanus out as a side branch and you have Leakey’s variation. Link Paranthropus off Australopithecus, and probably from afarensis and not africanus, which was contemporary with it.

This is the human lineage, as I remember it from college a couple years ago. I’ve left out some of the hominids like A. aethiopicus and H. ergaster both to save space and because I’m a lumper at heart. :wink:

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size=“1” face=“Verdana, Arial”>code:</font><HR><pre>
(Unknown common ancestor
with chimpanzees)
Ardapithecus ramidus
Australopithecus afarensis
A. africanus
| |
Homo habilis A. robustus
| |
| A. boisei
H. erectus
| |
| H. neanderthalensis
H. sapiens

Now, let's cross our fingers and hope this chart turns out readable. :D


Forgot to mention one thing. The website has a page on fossil hominids here.


Hey, Trout Mask Replica, I’d given up even trying charts like that, pretty good!

Are you driving with your eyes open or are you using The Force? - A. Foley

Excellent cite, too. I have to keep reminding myself that we have fragments only and have made decisions on those fragments. I think this is where DNA will eventually shine, if it hasn’t already established its superiority over using the measurement of fossils as the main tool for establishing identity.

Are you driving with your eyes open or are you using The Force? - A. Foley

Unfortunately, the process of fossilization also destroys DNA. The only other hominid that we’ve been able to get DNA samples from is Neanderthal, and even those are pretty fragmentary. For the time being at least, we’re stuck with using morphology to classify hominid species.


Even Teeth,TMR? I had high hopes for teeth.

Morphology has so much room for errors and guessing-not to mention hiding, loss and being ground up for medicinal purposes.

Are you driving with your eyes open or are you using The Force? - A. Foley