Published On Jun 05, 2017
Check out the most mysterious extinct human species! From prehistoric neanderthal fossils to ancient ancestor dna, here is a top 10 list of strange mysteries explaining human evolution!
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10. Homo Heidelbergensis
The Homo Heidelbergensis lived in Europe and possibly Asia around 700,000 to 200,000 years ago. It was an early species of human that had a very large brow-ridge, and a distinctly larger braincase and a flatter face than those that came before them. This was the first early human that lived in colder climates. It is believed they were able to do so because of their shorter, wider bodies that helped to conserve heat. They were the first species that we know of that built shelters from wood and rocks, were adept at using fire, and routinely hunted large animals with wooden spears.
Workmen in Heidelberg in Germany first discovered them in 1908, which is where they got their name. Despite knowing a few details about how they lived based upon further discoveries that have been made, there’s still a lot that we don’t know. For example, is this just one species or the combination of a few unknown ones? Where does Homo Heidelbergensis fit in with our own evolutionary path? And, were there any other adaptations that made this species of human more suited to colder climates than their predecessors?
9. Homo Rudolfensis
The Homo Rudolfensis lived in Eastern Africa between 1.9 million and 1.7 million years ago. It was a very early species of human, and evidence of them is so rare that there’s only one example of a good fossil that was found in Kenya in 1986. The feature that makes the Homo Rudolfensis different is the size of the brain casing. In the example that has been found, it measures at 775 cubic centimeters, which is much larger than has been found in any specimens of earlier species, and signifies a much larger and capable brain. It also had a longer face and larger molar and premolar teeth that show its links to more recent types of human.
Because the fossil of Homo Rudolfensis comes from so long ago, we know very little about this species- we don’t even know if it comes from the same lineage as we do, or whether it was one that eventually died out through competition with more capable species. We also don’t know how large they grew, or even what differences, if any, that there were between the males and females.
8. Homo Habilis
Homo Habilis lived in Eastern and Southern Africa between 2.3 million and 1.4 million years ago, which makes them one of the longest surviving species of any of our ancestors. They are one of the earliest “Homo” species, and thought to be one of the first steps of evolution to what we are today. They had a larger brain case and smaller face and teeth than their predecessors, but still showed ape-like features such as longer arms and legs. They weighed about 70 pounds and would grow to be up to 5 feet tall.
The first confirmed fossil of Homo Habilis was discovered in 1960. The name Habilis means “Handy Man” in reference to the fact these are thought to be the first ones to use stone tools. Of course they lived an extremely long time ago so there’s a lot about them that we don’t know yet. Questions that researchers are dying to answer include; are they a direct ancestor of today’s humans? Are they related to, or the same species as Homo Rudolfensis? And, how did they survive the variable conditions on earth that we know went on at that time?
7. Homo Floresiensis
The Homo Floresiensis, often called the Hobbit, lived in Indonesia between 100,000 and 50,000 years ago. This is one of the most recently discovered species, having been found in 2003, and so far finds have been limited to the island of Flores. This was a very small species, a trait that is thought to have occurred because of island dwarfism where the limited resources available to creatures that are isolated on islands causes different evolutionary effects. They were only about 3 foot 6 inches tall, had very small brains, no chins, receding foreheads and very large feet. These estimates are based on a female skeleton that was found, that also suggests they could weigh up to 66 pounds.
The discovery of this species has raised more questions than it has answered for researchers. For example, stone tools that were found on the island date back over a million years, so who made them if Homo Floresiensis only arrived 100,000 years ago? How did they live, and why did they die out? And, most interestingly in regards to our own species, did they ever come into contact with our own predecessors?
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