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human evolution

Introduction

human evolution, theory of the origins of the human species, Homo sapiens. Modern understanding of human origins is derived largely from the findings of paleontology, anthropology, and genetics, and involves the process of natural selection (see Darwinism). Although gaps in the fossil record due to differential preservation prevent the complete specification of the line of human descent, H. sapiens share clear anatomical, genetic, and historic relationships to other primates. Of all primates, humans bear particularly close affinity to other members of a group known as hominoids, or apes, which includes orangutans, gibbons, gorillas, chimpanzees, and humans. Humans and their immediate ancestors, known as hominids, are notable among hominoids for their bipedal locomotion, slow rate of maturation, large brain size, and, at least among the more recent hominids, the development of a relatively sophisticated capacity for language, tool use, and social activity.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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