Nana: (to himself) What is the brat upto? She has been silent all weekend and now she is sitting in a corner by herself brooding. How unusual!
(In louder tones) Hey Nina! Are you sick?
Nina: I am fine, Nana. Why do you ask?
Nana: You have been unusually silent these two days without nagging me, so much so that I had a peaceful weekend after a very long time. What’s up?
Nina: I am doing a project essay for school, Nana. Do you know how many species of humans are there?
Nana: What do you mean how many? You shouldn’t call Africans, Europeans and other people who look different from us as different species, you know. That would be racism.
Nina: No, Nana. Don’t you know? We, that is homo sapiens (us), aren’t the only human species to have lived in this world though we certainly are the only live ones now. The rest are all extinct.
Nina: Come on, Nana. Haven’t you heard of the Neanderthals or the Denisovan man? Homo Hablis or Homo Erectus? They are all considered hominin (human) species along with our own Homo Sapiens though obviously there were differences in intelligence, tool usage and bodily strength among these species.
All these species walked upright and left behind them fossil records of tool usage as well as in some cases, evidence of complex societies. Compared to modern humans, Neanderthals were stockier, with shorter legs and bigger bodies. This was likely an adaptation to preserve heat in cold climates. They were thought to have bigger brains too than modern humans, though this didn’t make them more intelligent than homo sapiens. The use of complex languages for communication and the societal structures for co-habitation by homo sapiens are thought to have made significant changes to the brain anatomy of modern humans thereby making them more intelligent.
Nana: Wow. Who is or rather what is a Denisovan man?
Nina: Denisovan Man is considered a sister species to the Neanderthals and is thought to have evolved from a common ancestor for Neanderthals and modern humans as well. Both the Denisovan as well as the Neanderthal species are also thought to have inter-bred with homo sapiens many hundreds of thousands of years ago based on DNA analysis of modern humans of today.
Nana: Interesting. But how did all these other human species die out while our modern human species flourished?
Nina: Environment and adaptation was thought to have played a key role. Modern humans were creative tool users. That coupled with early technological and cultural innovations such as thick clothing for eg. helped modern humans to survive harsh climatic conditions. The emergence of human society facilitated collective thinking and problem solving capabilities. All these gave our species an evolutionary edge.
Nana: An edge that resulted in a lecturing terror like you, all these thousands of years later! Go back to being silent while I take my nap. Shooooo!
This post is a part of the #NinaAndNana series I co-host with Kanika G. Her posts can be found here.