7 Stages Of Human Evolution: The evolution of modern-day human beings from Dryopithecus happened over a period of a million years. The sole motive of evolution was to become intelligent and sophisticated beings. From the tree-dwelling Dryopithecus to the tool-wielding Homo habilis and the Neanderthals with their distinctive features.
So now read about the factors that led to the evolution of homosapiens. In addition, let’s trace the footsteps of our ancestors and explore the unique traits that define each stage.
Factors That Impacted Human Evolution
Below are the 10 factors that contributed to the development of homo evolution:
- Increased Brain Size
- Tool Use
- Complex Social Structures
- Language and Communication
- Cooperative Hunting
- Fire Control
- Long Childhood Development
- Adaptability to Environments
- Symbolic Thinking
7 Stages Of Human Evolution
Below are the seven stages of human evolution explained with their first discoveries and unique traits.
1. Dryopithecus (Dryopithecine)
Believed to have lived during the middle–late Miocene period between 12.5 to 11.1 million years ago (mya). They prominently populated the boundaries of Europe. These ancient primates mostly resembled modern gibbons. Due to their more upright posture and the ability to move through trees. They are also regarded as ancestor or closely related to modern apes and humans.
The first discovery of fossils was in the year 1856 in France. Later on, Humans discovered fossils of the same species in China, East Africa and Europe. It is a fact that Dryopithecus was a significant find in the study of human evolution. Moreover, it gave a fine understanding of the evolutionary path of hominids to humans.
2. Ramapithecus (Syn: Sivapithecus)
Ramapithecus is an extinct hominoid genus that existed around 14 to 9 million years ago during the Miocene epoch. The discovery of the first fossil was in 1932 by G.E. Lewis in fossil deposits of Siwālik hills in North India. Later on, some more findings happened in Saudi Arabia and Africa.
Initially, Ramapithecus were a potential human ancestor due to dental and jawbone fossil discoveries. Yet, further research has led to its reclassification. Ramapithecus is now believed to be more closely related to modern orangutans rather than early hominins.
Even not being a direct human ancestor, the study of Ramapithecus has contributed to our knowledge of primate evolution and the branching of different hominoid lineages.
3. Australopithecus (Southern Apes)
Australopithecus is a genus of small-bodied and small-brained Hominin that lived in Africa. Through carbon dating, these hominins lived approximately 4 to 2 (mya) during the Pliocene and Pleistocene epochs.
In 1924 in Taung, South Africa, some lime quarry workers founded the first specimen. The most famous member of this genus is Australopithecus afarensis, represented by the fossil “Lucy.”
These primates have bipedality, which means they walk on two legs. This was a crucial step in human evolution. Moreover, They had a small brain size and a combination of ape-like and human-like features.
Australopithecus played a pivotal role in the study of human evolution. Moreover, they shed light on the transition from apes to early hominins and provide insights into our ancestral heritage.
4. Homo Habilis (Able Man)
Homo habilis also referred to as “Handy Man,”. They earned this title due to their ability to modify stones into tools for various tasks. This extinct species of hominin lived approximately 2.4 to 1.4 (mya) during the Early Pleistocene epoch.
Considered as one of the earliest members of the Homo genus, their discovery began in 1959. In the Olduvai Gorge region of Tanzania, a team led by Louis and Mary Leakey unearthed Two Teeth.
In comparison with earlier hominins, they have a larger brain size. Thus, suggesting increased cognitive abilities. It is largely believed that they had a more omnivorous diet. Along with this, a partially bipedal gait indicates a transition from ape-like ancestors to more human-like traits.
5. Homo Erectus (Upright Man)
Homo erectus, the first relatives of modern-day human beings because of human-like structures. For example, shorter hands and longer legs. Moreover, upright and efficient bipedal stance, reducing the need for tree-dwelling.
In the year 1891, a Dutch Doctor called Eugène Dubois found the first fossil of Homo Erectus on the Java island of Indonesia. After a few more discoveries, they became the first hominins to migrate out of Africa, spreading across Eurasia. Existed between 2.4 to 1.4 (mya) in Eastern and Southern Africa, during the Pleistocene epoch.
Homo erectus had a larger brain, so they had developed a complex social structure. Moreover, they had the capability to craft advanced tools, often associated with the Acheulean handaxe. Even, They were the first to invent fire and cooking.
6. Homo Sapiens Neanderthalensis (New Human Species)
Homo sapiens neanderthalensis, commonly referred to as “Neanderthals” are an extinct subspecies of humans who lived in Eurasia from around 400,000 to 40,000 years ago during the Pleistocene epoch. In the year 1856 in Neander Valley, Germany, the first discovery of a partial skeleton of a male Neanderthal happened.
They have the ability to survive in cold environments due to their robust bodies. They were like modern humans, for example, with distinctive facial features and a human-sized brain. They had hunting skills and toolmaking abilities using stone implements and even symbolic art. Some genetic evidence suggests that Neanderthals were interbreeding with early Homo sapiens. Proof of that is some people of non-African descent carry small amounts of Neanderthal DNA.
7. Homo Sapiens (Wise Men)
The homo sapiens began around 550,000 to 750,000 Years Ago. The oldest homo sapien fossil found in Morocco dates back to 315,000 years.
The findings showed that the Homosapiens had bipedalism which enabled them to long-distance travel. They also possessed advanced cognitive abilities, complex societies, and efficient tool-making skills. With these abilities, remarkable advancements in technology, art, science, and culture happened.
Furthermore, they have developed cultural diversity, language, and the capacity for abstract thinking. With time they shaped the world through agriculture, industry, and civilization. Ultimately, they became the most dominant force on Earth today.
In today’s time, the only surviving species of the Homo genus are the “Modern humans”. They are making new discoveries and inventions every day in all fields.