A Comparative Analysis: Homo Habilis Vs. Homo Erectus

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Homo habilis Vs. Homo erectus

Homo habilis and Homo erectus are two important species giving clear indications of how modern humans may have indeed evolved. BiologyWise attempts to make a comparative analysis between the two species.

Homo habilis is a debated species
According to some scholars, the species fits more into the genus of the bipedal apes, Australopithecus, rather than Homo, owing to its morphological similarities with the latter.

The evolution of humankind on our planet has, by far, been one of the most interesting as well as controversial subjects of debate. It is indeed exciting to know how we, Homo sapiens sapiens, evolved into what we are today, and how and who our ancestors were. There is absolutely no doubt that our current stage of morphological and mental development is a result of several evolutionary phases, which have reportedly spanned over millions of years. While debates continue to take place regarding who our exact ancestors were, the plethora of archaeological evidence from all across the world, suggest a manner in which human evolution may have indeed occurred.

** We place humans under the genus Homo, which is essentially the genus of various hominid species. The term “hominid” refers to all the bipedal and erect-walking primates (both existing and extinct), which may or may not be necessarily human. For all the fossils and other remnants, which indicate some or the other association with the humans, a separate subfamily “Homininae” has been defined within the genus Homo.

Homo habilis vis-à-vis Homo erectus

Speaking of the evolution of the Homininae species, the earliest species classified by archaeologists and scientists is that of Homo habilis, the “handy man”. This species was followed by that of Homo erectus, the “upright man”. It has been suggested that the bipedal species that preceded the Homo habilis, belonged to the genus Australopithecus, that included erect-walking apes, which are now extinct. This BiologyWise write-up is essentially about the comparison between Homo habilis and Homo erectus.

Homo habilis Homo erectus
Time Span
About 2.33 to 1.44 million years ago Considering the most recent finds, about 1.9 million to 143,000 years ago
Period on the Geological Timescale
Gelasian Pleistocene period (earliest period of the Pleistocene epoch) Existed through most of the Pleistocene epoch
Geographical Extent
Found only in East Africa Found all across Europe, Africa, and the Near and Far East
First Discovery
Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania Java, Indonesia (named as Java Man)
First Discoverer(s)
Mary and Louis Leakey in 1960 Eugène Dubois in 1891
Height and Built
Short and robust, height not more than 4 ft 3 in Taller and more slenderly built than all other Homo species, average height was 5 ft 10 in
Facial Features
Protruding face with prominent cheekbones Relatively flatter face with less prominent cheekbones and large brow-ridges
Disproportionately long arms, but shorter legs Slender arms and legs, longer than modern humans
Stooped over while walking Walked in an upright posture
Larger than those of modern humans and elongated in appearance Shovel-shaped, smaller than those of Homo habilis
Size of the Brain
Between 550 cm3 and 687 cm3 Between 900 cm3 and 1200 cm3, larger than that of Homo habilis
Sexual Dimorphism
Less pronounced, not much difference between the body sizes of males and females Strongly notable, females are significantly smaller than males
Scavenging Hunting and gathering
Staple Diet
Large-sized predators Meat, along with nuts, fruits, and berries
Use of Stone Tools
Primitive Oldowan tools, primarily used for scavenging, rather than hunting Advanced Acheulean tools, used for hunting and also for defense purposes
Use of Fire
No such archaeological evidence Archaeological evidence shows that fire was used; it has also been claimed that fire-making was discovered by Homo erectus
Use of Speech
The cranial base analysis of the habilis skulls does not give any indication of the use of verbal communication. The cranial base analysis of the erectus skulls suggests that they could indeed speak.

The Comparison in Pictures

The images given in this section will help you jot down some of the most obvious differences in the two species, and the tools they used.

Homo habilis and homo erectus

Note the differences in height and the length of arms

Homo habilis and erectus skulls

Note the differences in shape and size of the skull

Homo habilis face

Reconstruction of Homo habilis' face

homo erectus face

Reconstruction of Homo erectus' face

Olduwan tools

Oldowan tools used by Homo habilis

Acheulian tools

Acheulean tools used by Homo erectus

There are evidences telling us that both Homo habilis and Homo erectus did exist alongside each other for some time. However, owing to their larger body size, higher intelligence, and better adaptive mechanisms, the Homo erectus seem to have completely taken over later on.

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