Published: April 2005
Did You Know?
In Did You Know? the National Geographic magazine team shares extra information we gathered to expand your knowledge of our featured subjects.

If you've read much about human evolution in our magazine, or elsewhere, you're accustomed to seeing the term "hominid." Now, taking our cue from the experts, we're using a new term—"hominin." Why the change? Scientists used to group all of the great apes into one family, Pongidae, and humans and their ancestors into another family, Hominidae—the hominids. But studies of DNA, which reveal a close relationship between chimpanzees and humans, have led researchers to put all apes and humans into one big family—again called the Hominidae. Thus, they are now all considered hominids. In this new scheme, orangutans and gorillas each get their own subfamily, while chimpanzees together with humans and their ancestors go into a third subfamily, Homininae. So how to refer specifically to humans and extinct relatives such as the 3.2-million-year-old Lucy? They are now hominins, after the tribe Hominini, which now includes the australopiths (the new term for australopithecines, like Lucy) and the genus Homo.

—Alice J. Dunn