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Hominid vs. Hominin- Same Difference, right?!

Not so much…



I just reblogged an article about my favorite hominin, and when I was telling a friend about it, she casually asked, “Are you saying hominid or hominin? I want to be sure I say it right!”

That’s when I realized, Oops! To a person not familiar with anthropology or similar disciplines, it may sound like the same words. Maybe one is the plural from of the other. The terms ‘hominid’ and ‘hominin’ are used with reckless abandon when discussing evolution, but let’s take a moment and not assume anyone knows the difference.

Early on in biology and anthropology, we didn’t have all the fancy tools that help us to understand relatedness and common ancestors the way that we do now. Scientific taxonomy is a system that helps us to group species together to better organize how organisms relate to one another. It’s kind of like a REALLY big family tree! 

Scientists understand relatedness based on a number of different references, including skeletal measurements, geography, isotope analysis, molecular analysis, and genetics. The more we find, the more we know. 

Previous groupings within the primate and human familiies proved inadequate when trying to unravel the mysteries of how we became human and what common ancestors we share with other groups of primates.

So, scientists split up our big group into various sub-families:

Hominid – the group consisting of all modern and extinct Great Apes (that is, modern humans, chimpanzees, gorillas and orang-utans plus all their immediate ancestors).

Hominin – the group consisting of modern humans, extinct human species and all our immediate ancestors (including members of the genera Homo, Australopithecus, Paranthropus and Ardipithecus).

via University of Minnesota Duluth

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