Species of the Genus Homo

Species of the Genus Homo

The genus Homo, which is estimated to have emerged about 2.8 million years ago, includes modern humans as well as some ancestors and close relatives of modern humans. The only living species of the genus today is Homo sapiens.

Homo habilis

It is a species of Homo, thought to have emerged about 2.3 million years ago. Homo habilis, which managed to survive for 600/700 thousand years, spread to the eastern and southern parts of Africa. Since stone tools were also found in the areas where fossils were found, Homo habilis is thought to have the ability to use tools.

Their height is between 100-140 cm (40-55 inches), so they are thought to be between 35-55 kg (77-121 pounds). According to recent studies, their brain sizes vary between 500-900 cm³ (30-55 in³).1

Homo rudolfensis

It is a species of Homo, thought to have emerged about 2 million years ago. It is not known whether they are capable of using tools. They are thought to be taller than Homo habilis. The brain size of the skull found in Kenya and referred to as KNM-ER 1470 is around 775 cm³ (47 in³).2

Homo rudolfensis is a controversial species. Some scientists think that they are actually Homo habilis, while others think that they belong to the genus Australopithecus.

Homo ergaster

It is a species of Homo thought to have emerged about 2 million years ago. They spread to the eastern and southern parts of Africa. Their height is close to modern humans, however their brain sizes range from 700-850 cm³ (42-52 in³).

Homo ergaster skulls were classified as Homo erectus until recently. However, the species was named Homo ergaster because some skulls in Africa differed slightly from those in Asia. It has also been suggested that the skulls in question should be named Homo erectus ergaster.3

Homo erectus

It is a species of Homo thought to have emerged about 1.8 million years ago. However, recent studies shows that the origin of the species can be traced back to 2 million years ago.4 Their height is usually between 150-180 cm (60-70 inches). Therefore, it can be said that they are almost the same height as modern humans. Their brain sizes range from 550-1250 cm³ (34-76 in³) depending on populations. Current research indicates that they were the first Homo species to walk fully upright.

Homo erectus was the first Homo species to migrate out of Africa. They spread to the Caucasus via the Near East, and to China and Indonesia via South Asia. Although some remains consistent with Homo erectus have been found, it is a matter of debate whether they reached Southern Europe. The last individuals of the species survived in Java (Indonesia) until 108 thousand years ago.

Homo Erectus Clam

Homo antecessor

It is a species of Homo thought to have emerged about 1.2 million years ago. Their height is close to modern humans. It is thought that their brain sizes are around 1000 cm³ (61 in³).

Fossils thought to belong to Homo antecessor have been found in Western Europe. Along with the remains of Homo antecessor, many animal bones were found during excavations in Spain. Cut marks show that the bones were grazed by Homo antecessor. The discovery of Homo antecessor bones with similar traces has led to discussions that they might be a cannibalistic species.5

Homo bodoensis

It is a species of Homo thought to have emerged about 770,000 years ago. Its characteristics are based on Bodo cranium found in Ethiopia. Their height and brain sizes are close to modern humans.

The name of the species, previously identified as Homo heidelbergensis, was introduced in 2021. However, discussions on its place in taxonomy continue.

Homo heidelbergensis

It is a species of Homo thought to have emerged about 700,000 years ago. They spread to parts of Africa and Europe. Their height is close to modern humans and varies between 157-185 cm (62-72 inches). Their brain sizes are usually between 1100-1390 cm³ (67-84 in³).

According to remains in Europe, some individuals belonging to this species built simple temporary shelters using rocks and wood. As far as is known, they were the first shelters of the entire genus Homo.

Paleoanthropologists think that Neanderthals and modern humans most likely diverged from Homo heidelbergensis.6

Homo longi

It is a species described in 1938 based on a skull discovered in northeast China. The skull was hidden for political reasons and presented to the scientific community in 2018. Therefore, age determination has become difficult.

Based on the analyses, Homo longi is estimated to be between 309,000 and 146,000 years old. Its brain size is around 1420 cm³ (86 in³). The longest skull ever discovered belongs to Homo longi.7

Homo naledi

It is a species of Homo thought to have emerged about 335,000 years ago. The skull and bones discovered to date are confined to South Africa.

Despite its age, Homo naledi shares some similarities with Australopithecus species, which went extinct 1.2 million years ago. Their skull is much smaller than that of modern humans. It is estimated that their average height is 143 cm (56 inches). Their brain sizes are between 465-610 cm³ (28-37 in³), that is, one-third of the modern human.

Homo neanderthalensis

Neanderthals are a species of Homo that lived in Europe and parts of Asia until about 40,000 years ago. It is not clear when they appeared, studies give a wide range of dates from 700,000 years ago to 300,000 years ago.

Neanderthals were slightly shorter than modern humans. However, their brain sizes are slightly larger than that of modern humans. Considering the large brain, muscular body structure and the effect of the cold climate, it is estimated that the energy requirement of Neanderthals was higher than that of modern humans.

Paleoanthropologists aren’t sure if Neanderthals could talk. However, recent research shows that they had the ability to think symbolically.8

It is not clear why Neanderthals went extinct. The hypotheses put forward focus on possibilities such as diseases, climate change, natural disasters, demographic factors and conflicts.

Homo sapiens

Homo sapiens, also known as modern humans, appeared about 300,000 years ago. It is the only surviving species of the genus Homo. Modern humans arose in Africa and spread first to Eurasia, then to Australia, and then to the Americas over Beringia.

The average worldwide height of modern humans is between 150-180 cm (60-70 inches), depending on geographic region and gender. Our brain sizes vary between 1100-1580 cm³ (67-96 in³).

For most of its 300,000-year history, Homo sapiens subsisted as hunter-gatherers. With the Neolithic Revolution, which began around the 10th millennium BC, agriculture appeared and dietary habits changed drastically. On the other hand, the Neolithic Revolution caused the abandonment of nomadism and necessitated a settled life. This paved the way for private property and statehood. In time, concepts such as law, inheritance, and social inequality have emerged.

With the invention of writing in the 4th millennium BC, history began, and it became easier to transfer cultural memory and scientific knowledge to the next generations. After a while, thanks to scientific knowledge, the industrial revolution was realized and technology has become an indispensable part of daily life.

Homo floresiensis

It is a species of Homo thought to have emerged about 190,000 years ago. All known remains of Homo floresiensis have been found on the Indonesian island of Flores.

The most distinctive feature of Homo floresiensis is its very low average height. According to the bones unearthed, it is thought that the height of adult individuals varies between 100-120 cm (40-47 inches). The brain size of the Homo floresiensis skull, referred to as LB1, is about 380 cm³ (23 in³).

Homo luzonensis

It is a species of Homo thought to have emerged about 67,000 years ago. All known remains of Homo luzonensis have been found in the Philippines.

Identified in 2019, Homo luzonensis is a species with curved finger bones that indicate the ability to climb trees. Since the fossils are so fragmented, the exact height of the individuals is not known. However, based on teeth and foot bones, it is estimated that they were shorter than modern humans.

  1. Spoor, F., Gunz, P., Neubauer, S. et al. “Reconstructed Homo habilis type OH 7 suggests deep-rooted species diversity in early Homo” Nature 519, 83–86, 2015[]
  2. Homo rudolfensis“, The Smithsonian Institution’s Human Origins Program[]
  3. Tattersall, I. (2015) “Homo ergaster and Its Contemporaries” In: Henke, W., Tattersall, I. (eds) Handbook of Paleoanthropology. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg[]
  4. Contemporaneity of Australopithecus, Paranthropus, and early Homo erectus in South Africa“, Science, 2020[]
  5. Axial and appendicular skeleton of Homo antecessor“, José Miguel Carretero, Carlos Lorenzo, Juan Luis Arsuaga, Journal of Human Evolution, Volume 37, Issues 3–4, September 1999, p. 459-499[]
  6. Homo heidelbergensis“, The Smithsonian Institution’s Human Origins Program[]
  7. Massive cranium from Harbin in northeastern China establishes a new Middle Pleistocene human lineageInnovation (Camb), 2021[]
  8. Callaway, E. “Neanderthals made some of Europe’s oldest art” Nature, 2014[]
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