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Homo sapiens sapiens

Homo sapiens sapiens definition

Homo sapiens sapiens
n., [ˈhomo ˈseɪ pi ənz]
Definition: subspecies where modern human beings belong

Homo sapiens

What are homo sapiens? Homo sapiens is the species of all the highly developed primates on earth, a category that living humans belong to. These primates include humans, apes, lorises, tarsiers, lemurs, and monkeys. Homo sapiens is in which domain? All eukaryotic living things, including humans, fall into the Domain Eukarya. These are the organisms whose genetic material – which is DNA – is contained in the form of chromosomes present in a nucleus in the cell (or cells). Within this domain, there is the Kingdom Animalia where Homo sapiens can be found. Further down, they belong to Phylum Chordata » Class Mammalia  » Order Primates.

Taxonomy of Human
Figure 1: Taxonomy of Homo sapiens.

What does Homo sapien mean? The word “Homo sapien” means “the wise human”, a term derived from Latin.

There are numerous characteristics of Homo sapiens. To begin with, these modern primates are categorized by being a very diverse group of mammals. Homo sapiens tend to have a posture that is quite erect compared to other animals who are hunched and bent over. They use two of their limbs mainly to move (bipedal locomotion) versus the four used by other mammals.

It has also been observed that Homo sapiens have much larger brains in proportion to their body size than more other organisms as well. This feature is often attributed to their high level of intelligence and the behavioral characteristics they present such as tool use and even communication through languages.

Humans are the only primates that do not have feet that allow them to grasp objects and for that and many other reasons, often, humans are studied individually from other Homo sapiens. Sometimes other primates are used to study humans. As we see in Figure 2 below, for years, Tetsuro Matsuzawa has studied chimpanzees in hopes that it will better help him understand the mind of humans.

Tetsuro Matzuzawa with one of the chimpanzees he studied - photo by Jensen Walker, Aurora Select
Figure 2: Tetsuro Matzuzawa with one of the chimpanzees he studied. Credit: Jensen Walker / Aurora Select.

Homo sapiens sapiens Definition

What is a Homo sapiens sapiens? To define Homo sapiens sapiens, we must recall the definition of modern Homo sapiens (H. sapiens) from above. H. sapiens means “the wise human” and that is just what a Homo sapien sapiens is.

Why is “sapiens” in Homo “sapiens sapiens” repeated twice? This is based on the early taxonomic classification of modern humans wherein H. sapiens sapiens is one of its subspecies, including Neanderthals (Homo sapiens neanderthalensis). While Homo sapiens sapiens is used historically, it is still a matter of debate. Many modern taxonomists and scholars have not used it and referred to modern humans as simply H. sapiens, then later reclassified the Neanderthals as Homo neanderthalensis. The use of Homo sapiens sapiens remains a taxonomic choice but Homo sapiens (without repeating “sapiens”) is currently more widely accepted and preferred.

In the earlier classification, Homo sapiens sapiens is the sub-species that stems from Homo sapiens. This subspecies consists of only modern humans. Homo sapiens sapiens is the scientific name for humans. So when did modern humans first appear? This subspecies was first distinguished about 160,000 years ago in Africa. Then, based on archeological findings, they apparently migrated to other continents, such as Asia, Europe, and the Americas. However, there are archaic Homo sapiens who date back as far as 300,000 years ago.


human evolution diagram from guyhowto
Figure 3. How man developed from the first known species into Homo sapiens sapiens. Image credit: guyhowto.com.
Biology definition:
Homo sapiens sapiens is a subspecies of Homo sapiens where modern human beings belong and are the only extant species of the Homo genus. Some of the early modern human remains are the Cro-Magnon in Europe, Omo in southwestern Ethiopia, and Skchul/Qafzeh hominids in Israel. These specimens are regarded as early modern humans because they still have certain archaic features, such as prominent brow ridges and projecting faces.
Note: This classification and the naming conventions vary due to revisions based on newer findings and insights over time. Homo sapiens is to this day more widely accepted than Homo sapiens sapiens.

Etymology: Latin homo (human being, man) and sapiens (wise, sensible, judicious).
Abbreviation: H. s. sapiens

Homo sapiens sapiens Facts

Homo sapiens sapiens (H. sapiens sapiens) is the only subspecies of H. sapiens that exists. This is because there are some key physical features and facts that cause H. sapiens sapiens to heavily differ from the other H. sapiens. The early H. sapiens sapiens like the archaic H. sapiens were quite short. They usually have long limbs and truncated bodies. Now, the modern human is on average 160cm and 175cm for females and males, respectively. The brains of H. sapiens sapiens make up about 2.2% of their body weight, making it one of the largest brains to body ratios of all the Homo sapiens.

Homo sapiens sapiens were also heavily researched and studied because of their advancements in technology over the years. Their use of fire, tools, clothing and even the levels of development in their settlements and art have distinctly differentiated them from the other H. sapiens.

Stone tools crafted by pre-date modern humans - photo by Los Alamos National Laboratory
Figure 4. Stone tools crafted by pre-date modern humans. Photo credit: Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The modern human, unlike the oldest known human ancestors, now has a diet of both plants and meat. Before, the oldest human would eat mainly plants and herbs, which of course due to their build took much longer to digest and in turn, would require a longer digestive tract. As we developed into H. sapiens sapiens, we evolved and began to have a diet containing more meat and cooking food as the fire was discovered. This resulted in the H. sapiens sapiens body developing a shorter alimentary canal that would process these foods easily and in a short time span.

Homo sapiens sapiens have also had a massive impact on the world today. We have taken animals captive and domesticated them both for consumption and as protection and company. Now, about one-quarter of the earth’s land is used to do agriculture. With a growing population, humans are expected to be at least nine billion in number by 2042.

Human Subspecies

Often when we think of human subspecies we may think of the different races. However, there is only one race, which is the human race. So are there any subspecies of humans? Well, there used to be. In fact, nine different species of humans were present during the time of archaic Homo sapiens. These species underwent a mass extinction that was not caused by any major environmental phenomenon. Instead, it is believed that the mass extinction of the human subspecies was caused by the introduction of the Homo sapiens species – modern humans. The nomadic nature and the spread of the H. sapiens from Africa caused the other subspecies of humans to become extinct as time went by. One should bear in mind that the modern human has hunted numerous animals into extinction such as the mammoths and ground sloths. Even in the current time, humans have been the main factor contributing to the endangerment and extinction of many animals. History such as the World wars and some of the native tribes such as Aztecs are perfect examples of how humans can wipe out their own species simply because they have the advantage.

How Homo sapiens sapiens spread throughout the world - image by Dr. Katerina Douka - Finderc.org.
Figure 5. How Homo sapiens sapiens spread throughout the world. Image credit: Dr. Katerina Douka – Finderc.org.



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Choose the best answer. 

1. What is a Homo sapien sapien?

2. Which order does the modern human beings belong?

3. What does Homo sapien mean?

4. Which of the following is NOT a general feature of modern humans?

5. Which domain does the homo sapien sapien belong?

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Further Reading


  • Dorey, F. (2020). Homo sapiens – Modern Humans. Austrailian Museum. https://australian.museum/learn/science/human-evolution/homo-sapiens-modern-humans/
  • Groves, C. Peter and Napier, . J.R. (2021, March 31). Primate. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/animal/primate-mammal
  • Kremer, R. (2010). Human Origin Facts. Smithsonian. https://www.si.edu/newsdesk/factsheets/did-you-know-human-origins-facts
  • Longrich, N. (2019). There used to be nine species of human. National Post.
  • Norris, M, A. et Siegfried, D. R. (2021). Taxonomy of Homo Sapiens. For Dummies. https://www.dummies.com/education/science/anatomy/taxonomy-homo-sapiens/
  • Rafferty, J. P. (2020, July 2). Homo sapiens sapiens. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Homo-sapiens-sapiens
  • Tattersall, I. (2020, November 12). Homo sapiens. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Homo-sapiens
  • Wild, S. (2021). What are Homo Sapiens. Live Science. https://www.livescience.com/homo-sapiens.html

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