Homo sapiens is the species to which you and all other live human beings on this planet belong. Homo sapiens emerged in Africa 300,000 years ago during a period of tremendous climatic change. As with other early humans, they gathered and hunted food and acquired skills that aided them in overcoming the obstacles of existence in uncertain surroundings.
Modern humans can often be identified anatomically by the lighter build of their skeletons in comparison to previous humans. Modern humans have enormous brains that vary in size between populations and between males and females, but average around 1300 cubic centimetres. To accommodate this large brain, the skull was reorganised into what is considered “modern” — a thin-walled, high-vaulted skull with a flat, nearly vertical forehead. Additionally, modern human faces lack (if they have any) of the strong brow ridges and prognathism found in other early humans. Additionally, our jaws are less developed, with fewer teeth.
Scientists occasionally use the term “anatomically modern Homo sapiens” to refer to prehistoric members of our own species.
The Discovery of America:
In contrast to every other human species, Homo sapiens lacks a real type specimen. In other words, no specific Homo sapiens individual is recognised by scholars as the specimen that gave Homo sapiens its name. Even though Linnaeus defined our species in 1758, type specimen designation was not usual at the time. According to legend, palaeontologist Robert Bakker formally designated Edward Drinker Cope’s skull as the “lectotype” in 1994, a specimen that serves as the type specimen. When Cope died in 1897, he bequeathed his remains to science, which are now housed at the University of Pennsylvania. However, because a type specimen must be viewed by the person who named the species, Cope’s remains do not qualify.
The Means by Which They Survived:
Not only did prehistoric Homo sapiens create and use stone tools, but they also refined and specialised them, creating a variety of smaller, more complicated, refined, and specialised tools, such as composite stone tools, fishhooks and harpoons, bows and arrows, spear throwers, and sewing needles.
For millions of years, all humans, ancient and modern, were forced to forage for sustenance. Each day, they spent a significant portion of their time harvesting herbs and hunting or scavenging animals. By 164,000 years ago, modern people had developed the ability to harvest and cook shellfish, and by 90,000 years ago, modern humans had developed the ability to create specialised fishing gear. Then, within the last 12,000 years, our species, Homo sapiens, evolved to produce food and alter our environment. Humans discovered they could manipulate the growth and reproduction of specific plants and animals. This finding resulted in farming and herding animals, activities that altered the Earth’s natural landscapes on a local and global scale. Humans settled down as they engaged more time in food production. Villages developed into towns, and towns developed into cities. With increased food availability, the human population began to grow rapidly. Our species has been so successful that it has unintentionally triggered a watershed moment in the Earth’s history.
Modern humans evolved a distinct set of physical and behavioural features, many of which were shared by other early human species, albeit to a lesser extent. Modern humans’ advanced minds enabled them to engage with one another and with their environment in novel and novel ways. As the environment got more unpredictable, larger brains aided our forefathers and mothers in their survival. They created specialised tools and used tools to create other tools, as described above; they ate a variety of animal and plant foods; they possessed control over fire; they lived in shelters; they formed broad social networks, sometimes including people they have never met; they traded resources across large distances; and they created art, music, personal adornment, rituals, and a complex symbolic world. Modern humans have colonised every continent and significantly increased their population. They have significantly altered the world in their favour. However, this transition has unforeseen repercussions for both other animals and humans, introducing new survival problems.
Information about the evolutionary tree:
Humans are one of over 200 species classified in the order of Primates, as confirmed by fossils and DNA. Humans are classified as members of the big ape family within that larger group. While we did not evolve from any of the modern apes, we share features with chimps, gorillas, and orangutans (the big apes), as well as other primates. We most likely developed from Homo heidelbergensis, our shared ancestor with the extinct Neanderthals.
We may not know everything there is to know about our own species—but we are always learning! We continue to learn more about who we are through studies of fossils, genetics, behaviour, and biology of modern humans.
The following are some of the outstanding questions regarding Homo sapiens that may be resolved in the future as a result of new discoveries:
- Who was our direct ancestor in terms of evolution? Was it, as many paleoanthropologists believe, Homo heidelbergensis, or another species?
- How much interbreeding occurred between Homo neanderthalensis and our species?
- What does the evolutionary future hold for our species?