What About Us?

Part of the Darwin exhibition.

Australopithicus afarensis, Spitzer Hall of Human Origins

Humans have evolved just like all other species. We modern humans are the only remaining descendants of a once varied family of primates called hominids. All other hominids are now extinct. Fossils and DNA continue to reveal the details of our complex evolutionary history, which extends back millions of years and reveals that humans and other living primates share a common ancestor.

Humans Evolved Too

Human evolution is a process well documented by the fossil record. In different places, at different times, groups of early hominids adapted to their habitats, and many became distinct species--including some that lived simultaneously. Most of these species became extinct. But one--modern humans, Homo sapiens--ultimately survived and flourished.

Fossils only tell part of the story. Recent studies of DNA--the information encoded in living cells--have revealed new details of our evolutionary history. DNA comparisons, for instance, indicate that chimpanzees are humans' closest living relatives. In fact, the two groups diverged from a common ancestor only five to seven million years ago. Likewise, analyses of human DNA suggest that all modern humans are descendants of people who lived in Africa between 100,000 and 150,000 years ago. Further studies promise to reveal even more details of our rich history.