It’s been a long journey for our hands, which began with the purpose of locomotion and the like, followed by tool-making and usage, to texting and typing today. Human interaction with the environment significantly involves the usage of our hands; it’d be next to impossible to perform any kind of task without them.
But, where did it all start
More than 60 million years ago, prehensile limbs of primates evolved from the small hands of arboreal tree shrews. Significant changes took place in the brain for better muscle control, and eyes were relocated to the front of the face for the vision required for grasping.
About 3.6 million years ago, the Hominidae family – whose members include the great apes, chimpanzees, orangutans & humans, acquired bipedalism – an erect posture, the members would locomote employing only its rare limbs. Bipedalism freed the frontal limbs from locomotion and paved the way for greater usage & precision of human hands.
2.6 million years ago, our opposable thumbs evolved with the frequent use of palaeolithic stone tools. The word “opposable” means that humans can place their thumb in front of your fingers and be able to touch each one of them and aided humans with the precision grip.
The “handy-man” also known as the ancient human species are regarded as the first toolmakers, involving stone rocks to be used as hammers, sharpening stones by striking them against each other, and making hand-axes. Apart from tool making, these early humans practised other activities such as hunting, cooking, and foraging.
It was in the early twentieth century when human evolution theories suggested that humans separated very early from apes & maintained hand proportions alike other primates because they are plesiomorphic.
The development of our central nervous system has contributed significantly to the evolution of the human hand. The neural mechanism that enables the fingers such movement involves the connection of spinal motoneurons & cortical motor areas, which results in our cerebral cortex having direct control over the motoneurons of our hand muscles. The primitive hand features of humans are pentadactyly – having five fingers, hairless fingers & palms, and the opposable thumbs.
The evolution of hands for all the members of the Hominidae has truly evolved in every member’s favour, from providing long fingers + short thumbs for tree swinging members to short fingers + opposable thumbs to us humans.