Earliest humans had diverse range of body types, just as we do today

Apr 8, 2015

Credit: Jay Stock

By Science Daily

New research harnessing fragmentary fossils suggests our genus has come in different shapes and sizes since its origins over two million years ago, and adds weight to the idea that humans began to colonise Eurasia while still small and lightweight.

One of the dominant theories of our evolution is that our genus, Homo, evolved from small-bodied early humans to become the taller, heavier and longer legged Homo erectus that was able to migrate beyond Africa and colonise Eurasia. While we know that small-bodied Homo erectus — averaging less than five foot (152cm) and under 50kg — were living in Georgia in southern Europe by 1.77 million years ago, the timing and geographic origin of the larger body size that we associate with modern humans has, until now, remained unresolved.

But a joint study by researchers at the Universities of Cambridge and Tübingen (Germany), published today in the Journal of Human Evolution, has now shown that the main increase in body size occurred tens of thousands of years after Homo erectus left Africa, and primarily in the Koobi Fora region of Kenya. According to Manuel Will, a co-author of the study from the Department of Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology at Tübingen, “the evolution of larger bodies and longer legs can thus no longer be assumed to be the main driving factor behind the earliest excursions of our genus to Eurasia.”

Researchers say the results from a new research method, using tiny fragments of fossil to estimate our earliest ancestors’ height and body mass, also point to the huge diversity in body size we see in humans today emerging much earlier than previously thought.


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2 comments on “Earliest humans had diverse range of body types, just as we do today

  • I would think small size would be an advantage as long as we still did a fair bit of tree climbing. Once we gave that up, bigger size helps fight predators. Consider chimps vs gorillas.



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  • What puzzles me is why none of the earlier migrations resulted in surviving groups outside Africa.
    What made Africa the place where numerous types of early human began, yet none but modern humans have been able to survive elsewhere. What happened to the Homo Erectus groups that spread far and wide? This article ignores the fact that we know we non-Africans are all descended from a small group of modern humans who left Africa maybe 65000 years ago. We’re we talk then, or what?



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