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Hominidae Meaning

The Hominidae meaning is that it is a taxonomic family of primates that includes both extant (living) and extinct humans, chimps, gorillas, and orangutans. Family Hominidae is one of two ape families (superfamily Hominoidea) in this taxonomic system, the other being Hylobatidae (the gibbons). Members of the Hominidae family (including humans) are referred to as "great apes," whereas members of the Hylobatidae family are referred to as "lesser apes."

Hominidae historically included only humans and their near extinct relatives, that is, those more closely related to humans than the other great apes, which were in a separate family.

The word hominid, which is used to describe members of the Hominidae family, reflects these two meanings. It refers to humans, chimps, gorillas, and orangutans, as well as their extinct ancestors, in a scientific and expanding context. However, it is also popular, especially in anthropology, to see hominids refer only to humans and their extinct forefathers, due to both historical tradition and taxonomies in which humans are the only extant species in the Hominidae family.

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Historical View of Family Hominidae

The historical understanding of humans as distinct from the rest of living organisms has steadily eroded, resulting in the classification of humans and great apes in the same family Hominidae, based on morphological and genetic similarities. There have also been plans to group gorillas and chimpanzees with humans in the Homo genus and to declare great apes to be "persons." Indeed, humans and chimpanzees are genetically identical in more than 98 percent of ways. However, when other factors are taken into account, the distance between humans and the rest of the living species, including primates, is very wide. Only humans have complex language that employs syntax and grammar, as well as complex social frameworks (forms of government) and complex technology ( computers, satellites, etc.). People's imagination is such that they create new plant varieties and animal breeds.

A minority opinion holds that Homo diverged from a shared ancestor with Pongo as early as 13 million years ago, while Pan is more closely related to Gorilla. This alternative is supported by dental structure, thick enamel, shoulder blade structure, thick posterior palate, single incisive foramen, high estriol production, and beard and mustache, which are shared only by humans and orangutans. There are at least 28 such characteristics that have been well corroborated, compared to possibly as few as one distinct feature shared by humans and chimpanzees. While it is commonly assumed that these physical characteristics are deceptive, another explanation is that orangutans have experienced more genetic modification than humans and African apes since their separation from the common ancestor. If this occurred, the obvious genetic similarities between humans and chimps may not be due to a near evolutionary relationship. This hypothesis has been suggested as an explanation for why early hominids like the australopiths not only resemble orangutans rather than any African ape, but also share characteristics peculiar to orangutans and their close fossil relatives like a thickened posterior palate and anterior zygomatic roots.

Taxonomic History

In the past several decades, the classification of the great apes has been updated many times. Originally, the group was limited to humans and their extinct ancestors, with the other great apes grouped in their own tribe, the Pongidae. Many anthropologists and laymen still use this term. However, Pongidae is paraphyletic since at least one great ape species tends to be more closely related to humans than other great apes. Most taxonomists nowadays prefer monophyletic groups, so the usage of Pongidae will have to be limited to one of the great ape groups only. As a result, many biologists consider Hominidae to include Pongidae as the subfamily Ponginae, or limit the latter to orangutans and extinct relatives like Gigantopithecus. The taxonomy depicted here adheres to the monophyletic groupings proposed by the two theories of human-great ape relationships.

The Homininae are close human relatives who form a subfamily. Some researchers go so far as to include chimpanzees and gorillas in the genus Homo alongside humans, but the relationships shown here are more generally accepted. Alternatively, those fossil ancestors that are more closely related to humans than the nearest living great ape species are classified as members of the Hominidae family without actually being assigned to a subfamily or tribal group. According to morphological evidence, if the orangutan were the nearest living relative of humans, there would be a sister group relationship between Hominidae and Pongidae, with the African apes constituting a different family (Panidae).

The precise conditions for inclusion in the Hominidae under the chimp theory of human origins are unknown, but the subfamily typically includes species that share more than 97 percent of their DNA with the modern human genome and have the ability to communicate or engage in simple cultures outside the family or band. The theory of mind, which includes faculties such as mental state attribution, empathy, and even empathetic deceit, is a contentious criterion that distinguishes the adult human from the other hominids. Humans develop this ability at about four and a half years of age, while gorillas and chimpanzees have not been proven nor disproven to develop a theory of mind.

However, without the opportunity to test whether early Homininae members (such as Homo erectus, Homo neanderthalensis, or even the australopithecines) had a theory of mind, it is impossible to dismiss similarities found in their living relatives. Orangutans have been shown to have a culture similar to that of chimps, and some believe that the orangutan might also meet these standards.

Classification of Family Hominidae

Hominidae classification has been revised many times in the last few decades. Originally, the Hominidae family only included humans and their extinct ancestors, with all other primates classified as a separate family, the Pongidae. Using molecular biology techniques, the lesser apes were pushed into their own family (Hylobatidae) in the 1960s, with humans remaining in Hominidae and non-human great apes remaining in Pongidae.

By confining the Pongidae to a subfamily, the other great apes (gorillas, orangutans, and chimps) were able to join humans in the class Hominidae. Following that, it was determined that the African apes (chimps and gorillas) were more closely related to each other than to orangutans, and the chimps and gorillas were transferred into the subfamily Homininae with humans, while orangutans remained in the subfamily Pongidae. Chimpanzees and humans were subdivided into the same group, Hominini, and humans and their extinct ancestors were subdivided into the subtribe Hominina.

The Following Terms Will Be Technically Right in This Scenario:

  • A hominid is a member of the Hominidae family, which includes all great apes, including humans.

  • A hominine is a member of the subfamily Homininae, which includes gorillas, chimps, and humans (excludes orangutans).

  • A hominin is a member of the Hominini family, which includes chimpanzees and humans.

  • A hominin is a member of the Hominina subtribe, which includes humans and their extinct ancestors.

However, general recognition of this Hominidae taxonomy is lacking, impacting the consensus on the word "Hominid." Some systematics continue to use those features to promote the belief that hominids can only refer to humans and their ancestors. According to some taxonomies, gorillas and chimpanzees (and similar bonobos) belong to the Panidae family, while orangutans belong to the Pongidae and humans to the Hominidae. Others continue to classify humans as hominids and classify great apes as a separate family, Pongidae.

As previously stated, anthropologists generally use the word hominid to refer only to humans and their immediate and near-direct ancestors, based on several decades of use in that narrow context.

Some researchers, on the other hand, go so far as to classify chimpanzees and gorillas in the genus Homo alongside humans, though this is unusual.

Many extinct hominids (in a broader sense) have been researched in order to better understand the relationship between modern humans and other extant hominids. Gigantopithecus, Orrorin, Ardipithecus, Kenyanthropus, and the Australopithecines Australopithecus and Paranthropus are among the extinct members of this genus.


There were several species of arboreally adapted primitive catarrhines from East Africa in the early Miocene, around 22 million years ago; the range indicates a long history of prior diversification. Fossils dating back 20 million years contain traces of Victoriapithecus, the first Old World monkey. Proconsul, Rangwapithecus, Dendropithecus, Limnopithecus, Nacholapithecus, Equatorius, Nyanza Pithecus, Afropithecus, Heliopithecus, and Kenyapithecus are all East African genera thought to be part of the ape lineage up to 13 million years ago.

The presence of other generalised non-cercopithecidae, or non-monkey primates, of middle Miocene age at sites far from East Africa—Otavipithecus from cave deposits in Namibia, and Pierolapithecus and Dryopithecus from France, Spain, and Austria—is further evidence of a wide diversity of ancestral ape forms across Africa and the Mediterranean basin during the relatively warm and equable climate. The most recent of these far-flung Miocene apes (hominoids) is Oreopithecus, which was discovered in the fossil-rich coal beds of northern Italy 9 million years ago.

Molecular evidence suggests that gibbons (family Hylobatidae), the "lesser apes," differed from the great apes 18–12 million years ago, and orangutans (subfamily Ponginae) differed from the other great apes about 12 million years ago. There are no fossils that specifically record the ancestors of gibbons, which may have originated in a previously unknown South East Asian hominoid population; however, Sivapithecus from India and Griphopithecus from Turkey may reflect fossil proto-orangutans from about 10 million years ago. Nakalipithecus fossils discovered in Kenya and Ouranopithecus fossils discovered in Greece can represent species related to the last common ancestor of gorillas, chimps, and humans. Molecular evidence indicates that between 8 and 4 million years ago, gorillas (genus Gorilla) and chimps (genus Pan) diverged from the line that led to humans. When single nucleotide polymorphisms are compared, human DNA is approximately 98.4 percent identical to that of chimps. The fossil record of gorillas and chimpanzees, on the other hand, is limited; poor preservation (rainforest soils are acidic and dissolve bone) and sampling bias are most likely to blame.

Other hominins most likely adapted to drier environments outside of Africa's equatorial belt, where they encountered antelope, hyenas, elephants, and other types that were adapted to living in East African savannas, especially the Sahel and Serengeti. The wet equatorial belt contracted about 8 million years ago, and there is no fossil evidence for the separation of the hominin lineage from that of gorillas and chimps, which was believed to have happened around that time.

Humans Classified in the Family Hominidae

Humans and human ancestors after the ape–human separation were previously classified in their own exclusive family, the Hominidae. Members of this taxon were colloquially known as "hominids." However, DNA sequencing and comparative anatomical studies have shown that African apes and humans are more closely related than previously thought, implying that they form a natural classification that excludes orangutans and lesser apes. Humans and African apes have been grouped together in the taxonomic family Hominidae to indicate their newly recognised close relationship. Since chimpanzees, bonobos, and humans are more closely related than gorillas, the family Hominidae is divided into two subfamilies: Gorillaz (which includes the living genus Gorilla and its exclusive ancestors) and Homininae (which includes humans, bonobos, and chimpanzees and their exclusive ancestors).

Hominids and Hominins

Before we get into the details, let's clear up some terminology. The word hominid is often used to refer to our species (H. sapiens) as well as all of our extinct ancestors. The explanation for this is that we are all members of the same Hominidae family. However, the advancement of molecular phylogenetics altered the concept of hominids. Although our genus was classified solely on morphological characteristics, the family Hominidae is made up entirely of our own lineage, of which we are the only living members. However, molecular studies have altered this grouping, and the family Hominidae now includes other primates such as the orangutan, gorilla, and chimp. This does not imply that we are no longer hominids, but rather that our ancestors are larger than we previously thought. According to some historians, the new classification also gave rise to a new word, hominin, which corresponds with the former usage of hominids, while others include the chimp. The first group argues that the genetic variations between humans and chimps are important enough to make two groups, while the second believes that we are not that different and therefore includes all humans and chimpanzees in the tribe Hominini. There are two variations of the term hominin: the strict edition, which excludes former hominids, and the expanded version, which includes chimpanzees.


The fossil remains of genuinely early hominids are frustratingly scarce and incomplete (the zoological family Hominidae—“hominids”—includes Homo sapiens as well as all animals that are more closely related to humans than to living chimps and bonobos). Even the relatively complete, uniquely preserved partial skeleton of "Lucy" from 3.2 million years ago represents only one human, the smallest Australopithecus ever discovered. There are very few areas in Africa, let alone the rest of the world, where a dead organism can become fossilised. There are also fewer sites where these fossilised fossils can be found by scientists who are looking for them. Three of the world's great rift valleys meet in northeastern Ethiopia's Afar Rift. This huge, desolate area is a hot, dry desert populated by nomadic pastoralists known as the Afar. The Awash River, which drains the Ethiopian highlands, flows through their desert homeland.


The Hominidae, also known as great apes or hominids, are a taxonomic family of primates composed of eight extant species divided into four genera: Pongo, Gorilla, Pan, and Homo, of which only modern humans remain. Several changes to the classification of the great apes have caused the word "hominid" to be used differently over time. The word "hominid" originally applied only to humans (Homo) and their closest extinct relatives. However, by the 1990s, both humans and primates, as well as their ancestors, were considered "hominids." The word "hominin," which includes all members of the human clade since the split from chimpanzees, has increasingly assumed the earlier restrictive definition. The modern definition of "hominid" encompasses all great apes, including humans. However, use varies, and some scientists and laypeople continue to use "hominid" in its original restrictive sense; the scholarly literature usually shows the conventional use until around the turn of the twenty-first century. A number of extant and known extinct, that is, fossil, genera within the taxon Hominidae are grouped with humans, chimpanzees, and gorillas in the subfamily Homininae, and orangutans in the subfamily Ponginae. The most recent popular ancestor of all Hominidae lived about 14 million years ago, when orangutans diverged from the ancestral line of the other three genera. Maybe 15 to 20 million years ago, the ancestors of the family Hominidae diverged from the family Hylobatidae.

FAQs on Hominidae

1. What is Hominidae Meaning?

Ans: The Hominidae are a taxonomic family of primates that comprises eight extant species in four genera: Pongo (the Bornean, Sumatran, and Tapanuli orangutans); Gorilla (the eastern and western gorillas); Pan (the common chimp and the bonobo); and Homo, of which about modern humans remain.

2. What Are The 4 Species That Add Up in Family Hominidae?

Ans: The Hominidae family includes chimps, gorillas, humans, and orangutans; gibbons are classified as a separate family, the Hylobatidae. The Hominidae family is made up of four genera and five species.

3. What Characteristics Are Unique to the Hominidae?

Ans: Hominins are differentiated from other primates, both living and extinct, by their erect posture, bipedal movement, larger brains, and behavioural traits such as advanced tool usage and, in some cases, language communication.