Meet the dragon man: you may be related to him11 min readReading Time: 7 minutes
Part 2 of this story is available. Click on the next page at the bottom of this article.
We are not alone
Heads up! We aren’t alone out here. No, not you and me, not even us Indians. Us humans. Did you know that we are just one human species among many? Yup, that’s right, just like domestic cats and tigers are both cats, we homo sapiens have brothers, sisters, and cousins. Granted, we are the only ones around today. But as you’ll soon see, until quite recently (evolutionarily speaking), or 40,000 years ago, that wasn’t true.
Early humans were already at the scene about 6 million years ago.
Homo Sapiens, our friendly species, started strutting around 300,000 years ago. That would mean you that would have lived your life at least 3000 times (if you lived to be 100 every single time) from the day our species arrived up to today.
The scientific name for modern humans is Homo sapiens sapiens Linnaeus, however our species name is commonly shortened to the term, ‘Homo sapiens’.
This drawing of evolution that you often see doesn’t paint an accurate picture. Unlike the line of evolution that you see here, several human species roamed the planet and evolved together.
Evolution is like a web that grows over time.
While we do change as time goes on, many different renditions and iterations of creatures exist together. Various species of humans have lived together, and one after another and slowly developed into the people we are today.
Click on the picture below to understand evolution a little better.
Pause! Before we go any further, let’s get a few things out of the way.
Look at this drawing and observe how the classification of homo sapiens narrows down to what we are today. Classifications of species, such as what you see in the chart above, reveal the relationship between living animals.
Homo Sapiens sapiens, or the type of creatures you and I are, belong to the animal kingdom. Sapiens have inner skeletons, so we are different from amoeba and slugs. People are mammals, so we fit into the same category as whales, bears, cows etc. but not snakes and other creatures that lay eggs.
Furthermore, we are large-brained primates like monkeys, chimpanzees and apes. In fact, chimpanzees are our closest relatives in the animal kingdom. Here, we break off into the category of Great Apes or hominins. Hominidae or “Great Apes” is the category where humans and ginormous apes like gorillas and bonobos cut off from smaller primates with whom we share common ancestors.
Next up, we fit into the genus, ‘homo’. This is where the many human species separate from the rest of the animal kingdom. At this point in our evolution, we started to walk and balance ourselves on two feet. ‘Homo’ is the only remaining genus belonging to the Hominidae family.
The web of evolution
In the process of evolution, some groups of creatures disappear and others that can adapt and survive better appear. That is how homo sapiens came to be, and older humans like neanderthals disappeared. However, the process is slow, and often various species co-exist and evolve together.
Now, we finally arrive at the final rung of the ladder of classification; the various species that belong to the genus, homo. So far, there have been at least 10 such species identified. And Homo Sapiens Sapiens, the almost hairless humans, are one of them.
Species are distinguished as a group of creatures that mate with each other. Sometimes different species can mate with one another, but that rarely happens in nature.
Do you feel connected to the animals around you?
Can you name any other human species?
Can you think of any signs of evolution in your body? If yes, what are they?
Wow! that was a lot. Take a break and when you return remember to head to the next page to learn about the newest human species and your closest relative.