Human Evolution: Comparison of Various Humans Existing Prior to Modern Man

Denisovans, Neanderthals, and Homo floresiensis Are Cousins

human evolution

Human evolution, ever changing and full of mystery, is beautiful. The Denisovans, Neanderthals, and Homo floresiensis were ancient populations whose DNA remnants can be traced to today’s modern humans. They were around during the early times of human progress. Each type branched off from the original early humans over time, according to Matthias Meyer of the Max Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology.

For years, it has been a conversation involving only the Neanderthal when looking into how humans evolved. The discovery in 1974 of Lucy, 3.2 million years old with features of human and ape alike, fit into the known Neanderthal context. Lucy, who walked upright,  was found in Ethiopia by Donald Johnson, a paleontologist. She was the oldest human ancestor discovered at the time.

In 2004, the human evolution chain was adjusted once more.   Homo floresiensis fossils were discovered in the Liang Bua Cave, on an Indonesian island called Flores. Research found the specimens of these ancient humans to be small in stature. Their features attracted the term “Hobbit” as their distinction. Homo floresiensis fossils are still being investigated to see where they fit in the tree of human evolution. For one, it is not clear whether their size is natural or from adaptation to being on an island with limited food availability. Another oddity is the lack of clarification of how these fossils appear to somehow possibly fit in the old world and the new world. It is expected more findings will be uncovered providing clarification of who  Homo floresiensis was in the future.  

In 2008, a chip of a Denisovan’s fingertip was discovered in a small chamber in the Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains of southern Siberia. After it was scientifically analyzed by Johannes Krause (part of evolutionary geneticist Svante Pääblo’s team of the Max Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology) it was clear, without a doubt, that the fingertip did not come from a modern human or a Neanderthal; it was a completely different species.  To paint a picture, two teeth were discovered that fit into the Denisovan family. The teeth are larger than the teeth of modern humans and Neanderthal.   One tooth was at first thought to belong to a cave bear. A magical note to the location of this discovery is that Densinova is (so far) the only place on the planet where modern humans, Neanderthals and Denisovans all lived at some point, according to Pääblo.

Early modern human evolution was around 500,00 years ago.  The Denisovans, Neanderthals, and  Homo floresiensis derived from that group, becoming their own separate hominin group. This interesting information designates that humans are not descendants of any of the aforementioned, but rather they broke off the same group. Until research provides different conclusions, every group originated out of Africa, with modern humans being of the Homo sapiens group, Neanderthals of the Homo neanderthalensigroup and Homo floresiensis being its own group.

Dr. Meyers theorized that the Neanderthals (who went to Europe and Central Asia) and Denisovans (to East Asia) left Africa approximately half a million years ago. Homo floresiensis was uncovered on the Indonesian Island of Flores, according to Dr. Meyer. The discovery is still being assessed. Homo sapiens left about fifty to one hundred thousand years ago. These are said to be the early beginnings of modern humans.

While the Denisovans, Neanderthals, and Homo floresiensis are the only types of hominins known at this time, in the future there may be more as scientists continue to uncover new information.  The full details of the study were published this month in the journal Nature.

By Dada Ra

Sources:

Max-Plank-Gesellschaft

National Geographic

Knowledge Project