Homo is the genus that includes modern humans and species closely related to them. The genus is estimated to be about 2.3 to 2.4 million years old, having evolved from australopithecine ancestors with the appearance of Homo habilis. Specifically, H. habilis is assumed to be the direct descendant of Australopithecus garhi, which lived about 2.5 million years ago. However, in May 2010 H. gautengensis was discovered, a species believed to be even older than H. habilis.
The most salient physiological development between the two species is the increase in cranial capacity, from about in A. garhi to in H. habilis. Within the Homo genus, cranial capacity again doubled from H. habilis through Homo ergaster or H. erectus to Homo heidelbergensis by 0.6 million years ago. The cranial capacity of H. heidelbergensis overlaps with the range found in modern humans.
The advent of Homo was thought to coincide with the first evidence of stone tools (the Oldowan industry), and thus by definition with the beginning of the Lower Palaeolithic; however, recent evidence from Ethiopia now places the earliest evidence of stone tool usage at before 3.39 million years ago. The emergence of Homo coincides roughly with the onset of Quaternary glaciation, the beginning of the current ice age.
All species of the genus except Homo sapiens (modern humans) are extinct. Homo neanderthalensis, traditionally considered the last surviving relative, died out about 24,000 years ago, though a recent discovery suggests another species, Homo floresiensis, discovered in 2003, may have lived as recently as 12,000 years ago. The other extant Homininae the chimpanzees and gorillas have a limited geographic range. In contrast, the evolution of humans is a history of migrations and admixture. According to genetic studies, modern humans bred with "at least two groups" of ancient humans: Neanderthals and Denisovans. Humans repeatedly left Africa to populate Eurasia and finally the Americas, Oceania, and the rest of the world.
In biological sciences, particularly anthropology and palaeontology, the common name for all members of the genus Homo is "human".
The word homo is Latin, in the original sense of "human being", or "man" (in the gender-neutral sense). The word "human" itself is from Latin humanus, an adjective cognate to homo, both thought to derive from a Proto-Indo-European word for "earth" reconstructed as .
The binominal name Homo sapiens is due to Carl Linnaeus (1758).
Names for other species were coined beginning in the second half of the 19th century (H. neanderthalensis 1864, H. erectus 1892).
Species status of Homo rudolfensis, H. ergaster, H. georgicus, H. antecessor, H. cepranensis, H. rhodesiensis and H. floresiensis remains under debate. H. heidelbergensis and H. neanderthalensis are closely related to each other and have been considered to be subspecies of H. sapiens. Recently, nuclear DNA from a Neanderthal specimen from Vindija Cave has been sequenced, as well, using two different methods that yield similar results regarding Neanderthal and H. sapiens lineages, with both analyses suggesting a date for the split between 460,000 and 700,000 years ago, though a population split of around 370,000 years is inferred. The nuclear DNA results indicate about 30% of derived alleles in H. sapiens are also in the Neanderthal lineage. This high frequency may suggest some gene flow between ancestral humans and Neanderthal populations.
Migration and admixture
Map of the migration of modern humans out of Africa, based on mitochondrial DNA: Coloured rings indicate years before present, in thousands. H. habilis, which is considered the first member of the genus Homo, gave rise to H. ergaster. Some of H. ergaster migrated to Asia, where they are named Homo erectus, and to Europe with Homo georgicus. H. ergaster in Africa and H. erectus in Eurasia evolved separately for almost two million years and presumably separated into two different species. Homo rhodesiensis, who were descended from H. ergaster, migrated from Africa to Europe and became Homo heidelbergensis and later (about 250,000 years ago) Homo neanderthalensis and the Denisova hominin in Asia. The first Homo sapiens, descendants of H. rhodesiensis, appeared in Africa about 250,000 years ago. About 100,000 years ago, some H. sapiens sapiens migrated from Africa to the Levant and met with resident Neanderthals, with some admixture. Later, about 70,000 years ago, perhaps after the Toba catastrophe, a small group left the Levant to populate Eurasia, Australia and later the Americas. A subgroup among them met the Denisovans and, after further admixture, migrated to populate Melanesia. In this scenario, non-African people living today are mostly of African origin ("Out of Africa model"). However, there was also some admixture with Neanderthals and Denisovans, who had evolved locally (the "multiregional hypothesis"). Recent genomic results from the group of Svante P bo also show that 30,000 years ago at least three major subspecies coexisted: Denisovans, Neanderthals and Cro-magnons. Today, only H. sapiens sapiens remains, with no other extant species or subspecies. Spatial and time distribution of main Homo species
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