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Detailed list of all known human ancestors

  1. Nov 12, 2016 #1
    Hi everyone,
    In Carl Sagan's Cosmos there's a short animation video illustrating the shape of all human ancestors, starting from single cell organisms, morphing towards the modern humans. I've searched for a complete list of known human ancestors like that one, but I couldn't find anything like that. Is such a list available? Does anyone know? I believe we should have a lot of info on that...
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 12, 2016 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    Welcome to the PF.:smile:

    When I do a google search on List of All Known Human Ancestors, I seem to get some pretty good hits. Even the Wikipedia article would seem to address the list you are looking for, right?

  4. Nov 12, 2016 #3
    Thanks for the reply berkeman. I am specifically looking for all ancestors, not just hominids. And also, only ancestors, not cousins etc. I found this very helpful: http://evoboek.nl/en/#prettyPhoto[3425-EVO animation]/0/
  5. Nov 12, 2016 #4


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    But this table from the Wikipedia link appears to start with single-cell organisms and steps up to modern humans:

    Wikipedia Human Taxonomy.jpg
  6. Nov 12, 2016 #5
    If you trace along the right margin of the tree diagram in the Wikipedia article referenced by Berkeman you will see the line to humans bypasses reptiles, amphibians and true fish and goes directly from protomammals through several ancestoral taxons of these classes to Selachii (old name). This taxon included sharks and rays. Somehow it doesn't surprise me that our direct ancestor might have looked something like a shark.

    I don't think you're going to find a record as detailed as you seem to want. At the genus and specie level, the record is simply not known at that level of detail.

    EDIT: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gnathostomata
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2016
  7. Nov 12, 2016 #6

    Fervent Freyja

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    It should be noted that there are still many missing links leading to the divergence of modern humans. We are certain there are species that we have not uncovered yet, and even the current classification of some of the Homo genus/tribe classifications are under debate. We should expect a very different, but more complete picture to emerge within the next few hundred years. We know too little right now. Maybe one day we will have a picture detailing the exact routes of evolution, down to the geographical locations and breeding events. Combining anthropology and computational mathematics seems to be the key here.
  8. Nov 14, 2016 #7
    As Fervent Freyja says, our knowledge of the divergence of species, even within primates, has a lot of holes. Also, I'm having to get used to a lot of taxonomic reorganization since I first studied this stuff. This description of our more recent ancestors within the class Mammalia is interesting. Although dogs and cats are highly domesticated, they are not that close to us within the class. Our closest non-primate mammalian relatives incude rabbits, tree shrews and rodents


    You can click on various taxon or clade names in the decending tree diagram to get more detail.

    "The common ancestor of Boreoeutheria lived between 100 and 80 million years ago. The boreoeutherian ancestor gave rise to species as diverse as giraffe, dog, mouse, bat, whale and humans. The concept of boreoeutherian ancestor was first proposed in 2004 in the journal Genome Research.[2][3] The genome sequence of the boreoeutherian ancestor can be computationally predicted with high accuracy. It is estimated to contain three billion base pairs."[2]
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2016
  9. Nov 14, 2016 #8


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    A good site for what the OP is looking for might be the Tree of Life web project: http://www.tolweb.org/tree/

    For example, you can start on the page for Hominidae (http://www.tolweb.org/Hominidae/16299), read about our closest relatives, then click on the left arrow on the tree diagram to explore the wider taxonomic groups containing humans (e.g. Catarrhini, primates, Eutheria, etc.). Of course, the last common ancestor of each grouping has gone extinct, so you'd have to infer the characteristics of that ancestor from the characteristics of the different extant and extinct species derived from that ancestor.

    You could also start from the beginning (http://www.tolweb.org/Life_on_Earth/1) and click down the branches until you reach humans, which can be a fun exercise.
  10. Nov 15, 2016 #9
    It would help if you stated for what capacity you want to know this information. Do you want to trace the evolution of skeletal anatomy, neuroanatomy, biochemical evolution, etc? As others have stated in this thread, there isn't a specific list of all ancestors. There is a thread of biological evolution that we can trace from single-celled organisms through to modern humans, but we can't name specific organisms in that pathway because such archetypal characters had an ephemeral presence in the phyletic line you are seeking. They are transitional forms and for the most part we do not have much of a fossil record of them. Most of the fossil history we have are of the stable-form mold which represent short or long branches from that threaded line.

    This however, is the fossil record, if you're looking for a genetic trace, we can do much better. But it's not going to be a discrete list of "ancestors" or even ancestral forms, as it seems you are looking for..You're going to have to know your genomics.
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2016
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