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Homo habilis

Homo habilis

Overview
Homo habilis is a species
Species
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

 of the genus Homo
Homo
Homo may refer to:*the Greek prefix ὅμο-, meaning "the same"*the Latin for man, human being*Homo, the taxonomical genus including modern humans...

, which lived from approximately at the beginning of the Pleistocene
Pleistocene
The Pleistocene is the epoch from 2,588,000 to 11,700 years BP that spans the world's recent period of repeated glaciations. The name pleistocene is derived from the Greek and ....

 period. The discovery and description of this species is credited to both Mary
Mary Leakey
Mary Leakey was a British archaeologist and anthropologist, who discovered the first skull of a fossil ape on Rusinga Island and also a noted robust Australopithecine called Zinjanthropus at Olduvai. For much of her career she worked together with her husband, Louis Leakey, in Olduvai Gorge,...

 and Louis Leakey
Louis Leakey
Louis Seymour Bazett Leakey was a British archaeologist and naturalist whose work was important in establishing human evolutionary development in Africa. He also played a major role in creating organizations for future research in Africa and for protecting wildlife there...

, who found fossil
Fossil
Fossils are the preserved remains or traces of animals , plants, and other organisms from the remote past...

s in Tanzania
Tanzania
The United Republic of Tanzania is a country in East Africa bordered by Kenya and Uganda to the north, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west, and Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique to the south. The country's eastern borders lie on the Indian Ocean.Tanzania is a state...

, East Africa
East Africa
East Africa or Eastern Africa is the easterly region of the African continent, variably defined by geography or geopolitics. In the UN scheme of geographic regions, 19 territories constitute Eastern Africa:...

, between 1962 and 1964. Homo habilis (or possibly H. rudolfensis
Homo rudolfensis
Homo rudolfensis is a fossil human species discovered by Bernard Ngeneo, a member of a team led by anthropologist Richard Leakey and zoologist Meave Leakey in 1972, at Koobi Fora on the east side of Lake Rudolf in Kenya. The scientific name Pithecanthropus rudolfensis was proposed in 1978 by V. P...

) was the earliest known species of the genus Homo until May 2010, when H. gautengensis
Homo gautengensis
Homo gautengensis is a hominin species proposed by biological anthropologist Darren Curnoe in 2010. The species is composed of South African hominin fossils previously attributed to Homo habilis and is argued by some to be the earliest species in the genus Homo.-Discovery and analysis:Analysis...

was discovered, a species believed to be even older than H.
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Encyclopedia
Homo habilis is a species
Species
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

 of the genus Homo
Homo
Homo may refer to:*the Greek prefix ὅμο-, meaning "the same"*the Latin for man, human being*Homo, the taxonomical genus including modern humans...

, which lived from approximately at the beginning of the Pleistocene
Pleistocene
The Pleistocene is the epoch from 2,588,000 to 11,700 years BP that spans the world's recent period of repeated glaciations. The name pleistocene is derived from the Greek and ....

 period. The discovery and description of this species is credited to both Mary
Mary Leakey
Mary Leakey was a British archaeologist and anthropologist, who discovered the first skull of a fossil ape on Rusinga Island and also a noted robust Australopithecine called Zinjanthropus at Olduvai. For much of her career she worked together with her husband, Louis Leakey, in Olduvai Gorge,...

 and Louis Leakey
Louis Leakey
Louis Seymour Bazett Leakey was a British archaeologist and naturalist whose work was important in establishing human evolutionary development in Africa. He also played a major role in creating organizations for future research in Africa and for protecting wildlife there...

, who found fossil
Fossil
Fossils are the preserved remains or traces of animals , plants, and other organisms from the remote past...

s in Tanzania
Tanzania
The United Republic of Tanzania is a country in East Africa bordered by Kenya and Uganda to the north, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west, and Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique to the south. The country's eastern borders lie on the Indian Ocean.Tanzania is a state...

, East Africa
East Africa
East Africa or Eastern Africa is the easterly region of the African continent, variably defined by geography or geopolitics. In the UN scheme of geographic regions, 19 territories constitute Eastern Africa:...

, between 1962 and 1964. Homo habilis (or possibly H. rudolfensis
Homo rudolfensis
Homo rudolfensis is a fossil human species discovered by Bernard Ngeneo, a member of a team led by anthropologist Richard Leakey and zoologist Meave Leakey in 1972, at Koobi Fora on the east side of Lake Rudolf in Kenya. The scientific name Pithecanthropus rudolfensis was proposed in 1978 by V. P...

) was the earliest known species of the genus Homo until May 2010, when H. gautengensis
Homo gautengensis
Homo gautengensis is a hominin species proposed by biological anthropologist Darren Curnoe in 2010. The species is composed of South African hominin fossils previously attributed to Homo habilis and is argued by some to be the earliest species in the genus Homo.-Discovery and analysis:Analysis...

was discovered, a species believed to be even older than H. habilis. In its appearance and morphology
Morphology (biology)
In biology, morphology is a branch of bioscience dealing with the study of the form and structure of organisms and their specific structural features....

, H. habilis is thus the least similar to modern humans of all species in the genus (except possibly H. rudolfensis). H. habilis was short and had disproportionately long arms compared to modern humans; however, it had a less protruding face than the australopithecine
Australopithecine
The term australopithecine refers generally to any species in the related genera Australopithecus or Paranthropus. These species occurred in the Plio-Pleistocene era, and were bipedal and dentally similar to humans, but with a brain size not much larger than modern apes, lacking the...

s from which it is thought to have descended. H. habilis had a cranial capacity
Cranial capacity
Cranial capacity is a measure of the volume of the interior of the cranium of those vertebrates who have both a cranium and a brain. The most commonly used unit of measure is the cubic centimetre or cc...

 slightly less than half of the size of modern humans. Despite the ape-like morphology of the bodies, H. habilis remains are often accompanied by primitive stone tools (e.g. Olduvai Gorge
Olduvai Gorge
The Olduvai Gorge is a steep-sided ravine in the Great Rift Valley that stretches through eastern Africa. It is in the eastern Serengeti Plains in northern Tanzania and is about long. It is located 45 km from the Laetoli archaeological site...

, Tanzania
Tanzania
The United Republic of Tanzania is a country in East Africa bordered by Kenya and Uganda to the north, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west, and Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique to the south. The country's eastern borders lie on the Indian Ocean.Tanzania is a state...

 and Lake Turkana
Lake Turkana
Lake Turkana , formerly known as Lake Rudolf, is a lake in the Great Rift Valley in Kenya, with its far northern end crossing into Ethiopia. It is the world's largest permanent desert lake and the world's largest alkaline lake...

, Kenya
Kenya
Kenya , officially known as the Republic of Kenya, is a country in East Africa that lies on the equator, with the Indian Ocean to its south-east...

).

Homo habilis has often been thought to be the ancestor of the more gracile and sophisticated Homo ergaster
Homo ergaster
Homo ergaster is an extinct chronospecies of Homo that lived in eastern and southern Africa during the early Pleistocene, about 2.5–1.7 million years ago.There is still disagreement on the subject of the classification, ancestry, and progeny of H...

, which in turn gave rise to the more human-appearing species, Homo erectus
Homo erectus
Homo erectus is an extinct species of hominid that lived from the end of the Pliocene epoch to the later Pleistocene, about . The species originated in Africa and spread as far as India, China and Java. There is still disagreement on the subject of the classification, ancestry, and progeny of H...

. Debates continue over whether H. habilis is a direct human ancestor, and whether all of the known fossils are properly attributed to the species. However, in 2007, new findings suggest that the two species coexisted and may be separate lineages from a common ancestor instead of H. erectus being descended from H. habilis.

Findings


One set of fossil remains (OH 62), discovered by Donald Johanson
Donald Johanson
Donald Carl Johanson is an American paleoanthropologist. Along with Maurice Taieb, and Yves Coppens he is known for the discovery of the skeleton of the female hominid australopithecine known as "Lucy", in the Afar Triangle region of Hadar, Ethiopia.-Early years:Johanson was born in Chicago,...

 and Tim White
Tim White (anthropologist)
Tim D. White is an American Paleoanthropologist and Professor of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. He is most famous for his work on Lucy as Australopithecus afarensis with discoverer Donald Johanson.-Career:White was born in Los Angeles County, California...

 in Olduvai Gorge in 1986, included the important upper and lower limbs. Their finding stimulated some debate at the time. An older (1963) finding from the Olduvai site found by N. Mbuika had included a lower jaw fragment, teeth and upper mandible possibly from a female dating 1.7 million years old. The remains from 3 skeletons stacked on top of each other demonstrated australopithecine-like body with a more human-like face and smaller teeth. Compared to australopithecine
Australopithecine
The term australopithecine refers generally to any species in the related genera Australopithecus or Paranthropus. These species occurred in the Plio-Pleistocene era, and were bipedal and dentally similar to humans, but with a brain size not much larger than modern apes, lacking the...

s, H. habiliss brain capacity of 363 and 600 cm³ was on average 50% larger than australopithecines, but considerably smaller than the 1350 to 1450 cm³ range of modern Homo sapiens. These hominins
Hominini
Hominini is the tribe of Homininae that comprises Homo, and the two species of the genus Pan , their ancestors, and the extinct lineages of their common ancestor . Members of the tribe are called hominins...

 were smaller than modern humans, on average standing no more than 1.3 m (4 ft 3 in) tall.

The small size and rather primitive attributes have led some experts (Richard Leakey among them) to propose excluding
H. habilis from the genus Homo, and renaming as "Australopithecus habilis".

KNM ER 1813



KNM ER 1813
KNM ER 1813
KNM ER 1813 is a skull. It was discovered in Koobi Fora, Kenya by Kamoya Kimeu in 1973, and is estimated to be 1.9 million years old.Its characteristics include an overall smaller size than other Homo habilis finds but with a fully adult and typical H. habilis morphology.KNM means Kenya National...

 is a relatively complete cranium which dates 1.9 million years old, discovered at Koobi Fora
Koobi Fora
Koobi Fora refers primarily to a region around Koobi Fora Ridge, located on the eastern shore of Lake Turkana in the territory of the nomadic Gabbra people. According to the National Museums of Kenya, the name comes from the Gabbra language:...

, Kenya by Kamoya Kimeu
Kamoya Kimeu
Kamoya Kimeu, is one of the world's most successful fossil collectors who, together with paleontologists Meave Leakey and Richard Leakey, is responsible for some of the most significant paleoanthropological discoveries...

 in 1973. The brain capacity is 510 cm³, not as impressive as other early specimen and forms of Homo habilis discovered.

OH 7


OH 7
OH 7
OH 7 , also nicknamed "Johnny's Child", is the type specimen of Homo habilis. The fossils were discovered on November 4, 1960 in Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, by Jonathan and Mary Leakey...

 dates 1.75 million years old and was discovered by Jonathan Leakey on November 4, 1960 at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. It is a lower jaw complete with teeth and due to the size of the small teeth; researchers estimate this juvenile individual had a brain volume of 363 cm³. Also found were more than 20 fragments of the left hand. Tobias and Napier assisted in classifying OH-7 as the type fossil.

OH 24


OH 24
OH 24
OH 24 is a fossilized skull of the speciesHomo habilis. It was discovered in Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania by Peter Nzube in 1968...

 (AKA Twiggy) is a roughly deformed cranium dating 1.8 million years old discovered in October 1968 at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. The brain volume is just under 600 cm³; also a reduction in a protruding face is present compared to members of more primitive Australopithecines.

KNM ER 1805


KNM ER 1805
KNM ER 1805
KNM ER 1805 is several pieces of a fossilized skull of the species Homo habilis. It was discovered in Koobi Fora, Kenya.It is estimated to be 1.74 million years old.Due to its incompleteness it has been the subject of debate as to its classification...

 is a specimen of an adult
H. habilis made of 3 pieces of cranium dating 1.74 million years old from Koobi Fora, Kenya. Previous assumptions were that this specimen belongs to H. erectus based on the degree of prognathism
Prognathism
Prognathism is a term used to describe the positional relationship of the mandible and/or maxilla to the skeletal base where either of the jaws protrudes beyond a predetermined imaginary line in the coronal plane of the skull. In general dentistry, oral and maxillofacial surgery and orthodontics...

 and overall cranial shape.

Interpretations



Homo habilis is thought to have mastered the Olduwan
Olduwan
The Oldowan, often spelled Olduwan or Oldawan, is the archaeological term used to refer to the stone tool industry that was used by Hominines during the Lower Paleolithic period...

 era (Lower Paleolithic) tool case which utilized stone flakes. These stone flakes were more advanced than any tools previously used, and gave
H. habilis the edge it needed to prosper in hostile environments previously too formidable for primate
Primate
A primate is a mammal of the order Primates , which contains prosimians and simians. Primates arose from ancestors that lived in the trees of tropical forests; many primate characteristics represent adaptations to life in this challenging three-dimensional environment...

s. Whether
H. habilis was the first hominid to master stone tool technology remains controversial, as Australopithecus garhi
Australopithecus garhi
Australopithecus garhi is a gracile australopithecine species whose fossils were discovered in 1996 by a research team led by Ethiopian paleontologist Berhane Asfaw and Tim White, an American paleontologist. The hominin remains are believed to be a human ancestor species and the final missing link...

, dated to 2.6 million years ago, has been found along with stone tool implements at least 100,000 - 200,000 years older than H. habilis.

Most experts assume the intelligence and social organization of
H. habilis were more sophisticated than typical australopithecines or chimpanzee
Chimpanzee
Chimpanzee, sometimes colloquially chimp, is the common name for the two extant species of ape in the genus Pan. The Congo River forms the boundary between the native habitat of the two species:...

s. Yet despite tool usage,
H. habilis was not the master hunter that its sister species (or descendants) proved to be, as there is ample fossil evidence that H. habilis was a staple in the diet of large predatory animals such as Dinofelis
Dinofelis
Dinofelis is a genus of sabre-toothed cats belonging to the tribe Metailurini. They were widespread in Europe, Asia, Africa and North America at least 5 million to about 1.2 million years ago...

, a large scimitar-toothed predatory cat
Felidae
Felidae is the biological family of the cats; a member of this family is called a felid. Felids are the strictest carnivores of the thirteen terrestrial families in the order Carnivora, although the three families of marine mammals comprising the superfamily pinnipedia are as carnivorous as the...

 the size of a jaguar
Jaguar
The jaguar is a big cat, a feline in the Panthera genus, and is the only Panthera species found in the Americas. The jaguar is the third-largest feline after the tiger and the lion, and the largest in the Western Hemisphere. The jaguar's present range extends from Southern United States and Mexico...

.
H. habilis used tools primarily for scavenging, such as cleaving meat off carrion, rather than defense or hunting. Homo habilis is thought to be the ancestor of the lankier and more sophisticated Homo ergaster
Homo ergaster
Homo ergaster is an extinct chronospecies of Homo that lived in eastern and southern Africa during the early Pleistocene, about 2.5–1.7 million years ago.There is still disagreement on the subject of the classification, ancestry, and progeny of H...

, which in turn gave rise to the more human-appearing species Homo erectus. Debates continue over whether H. habilis is a direct human ancestor, and whether all of the known fossils are properly attributed to the species.

Homo habilis co-existed with other Homo-like bipedal primates, such as Paranthropus boisei
Paranthropus boisei
Paranthropus boisei was an early hominin and described as the largest of the Paranthropus species...

, some of which prospered for many millennia. However, H. habilis, possibly because of its early tool innovation and a less specialized diet, became the precursor of an entire line of new species, whereas Paranthropus boisei and its robust relatives disappeared from the fossil record. Homo habilis may also have coexisted with Homo erectus in Africa for a period of 500,000 years.

See also


External links