Homo sapiens or modern humans are one of the most intelligent species on earth. We belong to the order Primates and family Hominidae. Other members of the family Hominidae include gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans. Like all other Primates, humans are terrestrial animals that showcase bipedalism and a high level of dexterity. However, humans were not always classified under the order Primates. Before the introduction of modern biological classification, it was almost considered pseudoscience to declare that humans and other primates were related. It is also important to note that humans did NOT evolve from monkeys, even though we are related.
In this article, we shall briefly discuss the origin of modern humans and the basic anatomical features which distinguish us from other ancestors.
Consider this analogy: A family tree can be used to trace the ancestors of a human family with reasonable accuracy. However, if we trace the ancestry of modern humans to the very first ancestors, the tree would instead become a bush, with many indistinguishable branches. In other words, it is currently not possible to connect a series of species that would chronologically lead to modern humans.
Another false notion that we tend to propagate is that we evolved from monkeys (and chimpanzees). However, this isn’t true. Humans, chimpanzees and monkeys share a common ancestor. This means we are related to them but they are not our ancestors. In other words, these are more like our distant relatives rather than our grandfathers.
Theoretically though, there is a common ancestor which existed millions of years ago. Rather than constituting a missing link, this hypothetical ancestor acts as a node – where it diverged into separate lineages. One of our most well-known hominid relatives are the Neanderthals. This species coexisted with humans until about 28,000 years ago. Many scientists speculate that a few modern Europeans and Asians carry traces of Neanderthal DNA (about 2%). This implies that humans merged and also bred with Neanderthals. Today, all other members of the subtribe Hominina, except for humans are extinct. Moreover, our closest living relatives are chimpanzees, gorillas and bonobos.
Following are some of the characteristics features of Homo sapiens:
- Humans are bipedal, which means we use our rear limbs to move.
- We also have opposable thumbs, which enable us to grasp and handle objects.
- We also exhibit sexual dimorphism
- Unlike other members of the primate family, childbirth is more difficult and dangerous in humans. This is because we have narrower birth canals and our human babies have a larger head when compared to other primates.
- Our cerebral cortex is significantly more developed than other members of the primate family.
Explore more anatomical features of humans here:
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