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My non-magic fantasy world has a species of hominid that lives in a huge and wide sierra of mountains. If they had split off from the (now dominant) human species a couple million years ago, (say around 3 times as far back as H. neanderthalensis) what characteristics may they have developed in that time frame and environment?

The environment is:

  • high-elevation

  • humid

  • snowy

  • low plant life

  • isolated from other hominids

  • violent weather

How would this species evolve to these environmental characteristics in this time frame?

They would be as smart as humans and about the same size. They would live in large groups like humans too. They’d be social and able to develop tools, fire, language, and agriculture (in small amounts)

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  • $\begingroup$ I do want them to be relatively distinct, such that they would be “othered” by the human species $\endgroup$ – Capillary Cumorah Apr 16 at 13:20
  • $\begingroup$ Mountain gorillas (Gorilla berigei) are extant hominids which live in mountainous environments, at high-ish elevation with lots of humidity and frequent violent weather. However, plant life is abundant and snow is absent. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Apr 16 at 13:34
  • $\begingroup$ I was thinking they would be as smart as humans and about the same size. They would live in large groups like humans too. They’d be social and able to develop tools, fire, language, and agriculture (in small amounts) $\endgroup$ – Capillary Cumorah Apr 16 at 13:38
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    $\begingroup$ Tibetans and Bolivians are real-life high-altitude hominids with language and agriculture and all the rest, and their physical (and cultural) adaptations to the challenging environment are well-documented. You have a challenge -- you have given your hominids the building blocks of culture, and cultural adaptation is much more flexible and rapid than biological adaptation. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Apr 16 at 14:31
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They would be adapted to high altitude possibly with larger lungs and a higher level of hemoglobin. They would remain hairy and possibly become even more hairy as a form of insulation from the cold and they might even develop a thicker layer of fat for insulation. Animal skin clothing would be another possibility for protection.

Humid does not count for much if it is snowy as cold air can hold little water so humid v dry in cold weather isn’t that different. Low plant life would present a problem however and would probably mean that the hominids lived in very small groups and had a large range eating anything they could find from lichen to whatever animals and low growing plant life did exist. They might well have adaptions to digest a wider range of food.

Violent weather would also adversely impact them and I would expect them to be expert at locating caves and other sheltered spots to make their camps. I doubt farming, at least as we know it, would evolve in such a circumstance, however they might well encourage edible plants by semi random seed sowing in their locality.

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