Modern humans (Homo sapiens, ssp. Homo sapiens sapiens) are the only extant members of the subtribe Hominina, a branch of the tribe Hominini belonging to the family of great apes. They are characterized by erect posture and bipedal locomotion; high manual dexterity and heavy tool use compared to other animals; open-ended and complex language use compared to other animal communications; and a general trend toward larger, more complex brains and societies.
Early hominins—particularly the australopithecines, whose brains and anatomy are in many ways more similar to ancestral non-human apes—are less often referred to as "human" than hominins of the genus Homo. Several of these hominins used fire, occupied much of Eurasia, and gave rise to anatomically modern Homo sapiens in Africa about 315,000 years ago. They began to exhibit evidence of behavioral modernity around 50,000 years ago. In several waves of migration, anatomically modern humans ventured out of Africa and populated most of the world.
The spread of humans and their large and increasing population has had a profound impact on large areas of the environment and millions of native species worldwide. Advantages that explain this evolutionary success include a relatively larger brain with a particularly well-developed neocortex, prefrontal cortex and temporal lobes, which enable high levels of abstract reasoning, language, problem solving, sociality, and culture through social learning. Humans use tools to a much higher degree than any other animal, are the only extant species known to build fires and cook their food, and are the only extant species to clothe themselves and create and use numerous other technologies and arts.
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