Homo habilis was an ape-like hominid from the Pliocene, and was one of the first humans that wasn't fully herbivorous.
Facts[edit | edit source]
Homo habilis is a species of the Hominini tribe, which lived from approximately 2.33 to 1.44 MYA, during the Gelasian Pleistocene period..
While there has been scholarly controversy regarding its placement in the genus Homo rather than the genus Australopithecus, its brain size has been shown to range from 550 cm3 to 687 cm3, rather than from 363 cm3 to 600 cm3 as formerly thought. They were the first people to use simple tools and make shelters. They had used sharp rocks to break into bone for the nutritious bone marrow, something the other animals could not do.
These more recent findings concerning brain size favor its traditional placement in the genus Homo, as does the need for the genus to be monophyletic if H. habilis is indeed the common ancestor.
In its appearance and morphology, H. habilis is the least similar to modern humans of all species in the genus Homo (except the equally controversial H. rudolfensis), and its classification as Homo has been the subject of controversial debate since its first proposal in the 1960s. H. habilis was short and had disproportionately long arms compared to modern humans; however, it had a less protruding face than the australopithecines from which it is thought to have descended. H. habilis had a cranial capacity slightly less than half of the size of modern humans. Despite the ape-like morphology of the bodies, H. habilis remains are often accompanied by primitive stone tools (e.g. Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania and Lake Turkana, Kenya), though these were very simple.
Homo habilis has often been thought to be the ancestor of the more gracile and sophisticated human-like Homo ergaster, which in turn gave rise to the even more human-appearing species, Homo erectus. Debates continue over whether all of the known fossils are properly attributed to the species, and some paleoanthropologists regard the taxon as invalid, made up of fossil specimens of Australopithecus and Homo.
New findings in 2007 seemed to confirm the view that H. habilis and H. erectus co-existed, representing separate lineages from a common ancestor instead of H. erectus being descended from H. habilis.
An alternative explanation would be that any ancestral relationship from H. habilis to H. erectus would have to have been cladogenetic rather than anagenetic (meaning that if an isolated subgroup population of H. habilis became the ancestor of H. erectus, other subgroups remained as unchanged H. habilis until their much later extinction).
It is also even more likely that they co-existed with H. ergaster, due to both species living in Africa. H. ergaster ended up surviving and the Homo habilis went extinct.
In the Series[edit | edit source]
In the second episode of Walking with Cavemen, they are shown taking a carcass from a lion, unsuccessfully at first. They then have to fight a troop of Homo rudolfensis for it. Their leader is later killed by the lion in this struggle, leaving the Homo habilis troop without a leader. They are also contrasted with Paranthropus boisei, who became specialized for a herbivorous lifestyle instead and flourish, while Homo habilis do not.
Later, however, it is shown that Homo habilis survives, while its relatives, Paranthropus boisei and Homo rudolfensis go extinct, just as many other Pliocene mammals do. They may have survived due to the fact that they could do something that the Homo rudolfensis could not; breaking into bone with simple stone tools for the tasty bone marrow inside. This in turn makes them smarter than Paranthropus boisei and Homo rudolfensis, further insuring survival. It is then shown that they are soon replaced by another prehistoric human, Homo ergaster.