Homo sapiens

Homo sapiens
Temporal range: 0.35–0 Ma Middle PleistocenePresent
Akha man and woman in northern Thailand – husband carries stem of banana-plant, which will be fed to their pigs
Male and female H s. sapiens
(Akha in northern Thailand,
2007 photograph)
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom:Animalia
Phylum:Chordata
Class:Mammalia
Order:Primates
Suborder:Haplorhini
Infraorder:Simiiformes
Family:Hominidae
Subfamily:Homininae
Tribe:Hominini
Genus:Homo
Species:
H. sapiens
Binomial name
Homo sapiens
Subspecies

H. s. sapiens
H. s. idaltu
H. s. neanderthalensis(?)
H. s. rhodesiensis(?)
(others proposed)

Homo sapiens is the only extant human species. The name is Latin for "wise man" and was introduced in 1758 by Carl Linnaeus (who is himself the lectotype for the species).

Extinct species of the genus Homo include Homo erectus, extant from roughly 1.9 to 0.4 million years ago, and a number of other species (by some authors considered subspecies of either H. sapiens or H. erectus). The age of speciation of H. sapiens out of ancestral H. erectus (or an intermediate species such as Homo antecessor) is estimated to have been roughly 350,000 years ago.[note 1] Sustained archaic admixture is known to have taken place both in Africa and (following the recent Out-Of-Africa expansion) in Eurasia, between about 100,000 and 30,000 years ago.[4]

The term anatomically modern humans[5] (AMH) is used to distinguish H. sapiens having an anatomy consistent with the range of phenotypes seen in contemporary humans from varieties of extinct archaic humans. This is useful especially for times and regions where anatomically modern and archaic humans co-existed, for example, in Paleolithic Europe.

Name and taxonomy

The binomial name Homo sapiens was coined by Linnaeus, 1758.[6] The Latin noun homō (genitive hominis) means "human being", while the participle sapiēns means "discerning, wise, sensible".

The species was initially thought to have emerged from a predecessor within the genus Homo around 300,000 to 200,000 years ago.[note 2] A problem with the morphological classification of "anatomically modern" was that it would not have included certain extant populations. For this reason, a lineage-based (cladistic) definition of H. sapiens has been suggested, in which H. sapiens would by definition refer to the modern human lineage following the split from the Neanderthal lineage. Such a cladistic definition would extend the age of H. sapiens to over 500,000 years.[note 3]

Extant human populations have historically been divided into subspecies, but since around the 1980s all extant groups have tended to be subsumed into a single species, H. sapiens, avoiding division into subspecies altogether.[note 4]

Some sources show Neanderthals (H. neanderthalensis) as a subspecies (H. sapiens neanderthalensis).[14][15] Similarly, the discovered specimens of the H. rhodesiensis species have been classified by some as a subspecies (H. sapiens rhodesiensis), although it remains more common to treat these last two as separate species within the genus Homo rather than as subspecies within H. sapiens.[16]

The subspecies name H. sapiens sapiens is sometimes used informally instead of "modern humans" or "anatomically modern humans". It has no formal authority associated with it.[note 5] By the early 2000s, it had become common to use H. s. sapiens for the ancestral population of all contemporary humans, and as such it is equivalent to the binomial H. sapiens in the more restrictive sense (considering H. neanderthalensis a separate species).[note 6]