The human lineage is a branch of the huge evolutionary tree of the Hominoidea, which today includes ourselves, chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, and gibbons. All extant hominoids, except for the single world-wide species Homo sapiens
, are now endangered and restricted in their distribution to tropical/subtropical forests of Africa and Southeast Asia. However, hominoids were once a more flourishing group millions of years ago. In the Miocene, there were various kinds of hominoid primates, and their distribution was much wider than today, from the southern tip of Africa through Arabia, to Europe in the west and through India to China in the east. It is from this great diversity of Miocene hominoids that the earliest human ancestors emerged, probably during the Late Miocene. The first part of this article provides readers with general information about extant hominoids. The second part is devoted to Miocene fossil hominoids with emphasis on African fossils. Although the main subject of this article is fossil hominoids, some recent findings of early hominids are also mentioned to at the end.
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