Dictionary of Human Evolution and Biology

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Hominoidea Gray, 1825

Primate superfamily that includes the living apes (families Pongidae and Hylobatidae), humans (family Hominidae), and their extinct ancestors; see hominoid. Members of this taxon are generally large (except gibbons) and tailless, have a shoulder structure adapted for climbing and hanging, and have the highest ratio of brain size to body size among the primates. Homo Linnaeus, 1758: nomen for the primate genus that includes one extant species, AMHs, as well as at least six closely related extinct species. Literally, man, or earthly one. Characterized by upright posture, with its shift to a terrestrial mode of living and the freeing of the forelimbs for new functions, which, in turn, may have stimulated brain development’ (Mayr). Other traits include a centrally situated foramen magnum, a range in brain size from 550 to 2000 cm3, reduced lingual cusp on the third premolar, relative size reduction of the third molar, and a nasal sill. Criteria for inclusion in this genus by fossil species has not been consistent, but for the most part is based on derived feature separating these species from Australopithecus and Paranthropus: larger brain size (over 680 cm3.), thicker cranial vault, decreased postorbital constriction, smaller molars and premolars, smaller face, and, according to some authorities, the increased cranial vault thickness, reduced postorbital constriction, increased contribution of the occipital bone to cranial sagittal arc length, increased cranial vault height, reduced lower facial prognathism, narrower tooth crowns (especially in the lower premolars) and reduction in length of the molar tooth row. This genus first appears c. 2.3 mya.

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