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Science. 2014 Jul 4;345(6192):1236828. doi: 10.1126/science.1236828.

Human evolution. Evolution of early Homo: an integrated biological perspective.

Author information

Center for the Study of Human Origins, Department of Anthropology, New York University, Rufus D. Smith Hall, 25 Waverly Place, New York, NY 10003, USA. E-mail:
Human Origins Program, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Post Office Box 37012, Washington, DC 20013-7012, USA. E-mail:
Wenner-Gren Foundation, 470 Park Avenue South, 8th Floor, New York, NY 10016, USA. E-mail:


Integration of evidence over the past decade has revised understandings about the major adaptations underlying the origin and early evolution of the genus Homo. Many features associated with Homo sapiens, including our large linear bodies, elongated hind limbs, large energy-expensive brains, reduced sexual dimorphism, increased carnivory, and unique life history traits, were once thought to have evolved near the origin of the genus in response to heightened aridity and open habitats in Africa. However, recent analyses of fossil, archaeological, and environmental data indicate that such traits did not arise as a single package. Instead, some arose substantially earlier and some later than previously thought. From ~2.5 to 1.5 million years ago, three lineages of early Homo evolved in a context of habitat instability and fragmentation on seasonal, intergenerational, and evolutionary time scales. These contexts gave a selective advantage to traits, such as dietary flexibility and larger body size, that facilitated survival in shifting environments.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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