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|
|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|
|Found only in East Africa||Found all across Europe, Africa, and the Near and Far East|
|Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania||Java, Indonesia (named as Java Man)|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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.
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.