What is a Hominin, Hominid, and a Hominoid?

Image Citation: 263582 (photographer). (2014). Monkey Orangutan Animal [photography]. Retrieved from https://pixabay.com/photos/monkey-orangutan-animal-face-hair-428032/

Hominin, hominid, and hominoid are all words that we use to talk about humans, their ancestors, and their closest relatives, but they mean different things.

A hominin refers to a species within the Homini tribe of Hominidae, which encompasses modern-day humans as well as extinct human species and their ancestors. Non-human apes such as gorillas or chimpanzees are not considered to be hominins. Hominins are distinguished specifically by their degree of bipedalism (the ability to walk primarily on two legs).

A hominid, on the other hand, is any member of the Hominidae subfamily. This includes all the Great Ape species; orangutans, gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, and all hominins (modern and extinct humans). Hominins are essentially a smaller subset of hominids.

Hominoid, on the other hand, encompass an even larger biological group. A hominoid belongs to the superfamily Hominoidea; this includes all hominins, all hominids, and includes lesser apes like gibbons as well as the Great Apes. Hominoids are distinguished from other primates by their lack of tails and flexible shoulder joints for brachiating (swinging from arm to arm).

The word “ape” is a less scientific term used for hominoids, although this can get confusing since some people do not think of humans and ancestral human species as “apes”.

Essentially, all hominids are hominoids, and all hominins are hominids. The words sound very similar and can be confusing, but it’s important to use them correctly so people know which group you’re referring to.

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