Before the 1990’s, human beings and the great apes (chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orangutans) were usually classified in two separate taxonomic families: Hominidae and Pongidae (respectively). But as the very close genetic relationship between human beings and the great apes became apparent, it was generally agreed that they should all be classified in one single family. The name chosen for this combined family was Hominidae. Moreover, it has generally been agreed that chimpanzees, bonobos and gorillas should be included with human beings in the same subfamily. The name being used for this subfamily is Homininae. And it is generally agreed that chimpanzees and bonobos should be included with human beings in a taxonomic tribe (the level below subfamily) called Hominini.

I certainly have no problem with any of this taxonomic re-evaluation given that it is quite clearly required by scientific evidence – except for one thing: the use of the homin– stem that is used to form the names of these taxonomic groupings. Using the homin– stem for these groupings suggests that the great apes are human. This to me is clearly untrue. It makes as much sense as saying that all felids are lions, or that all perissodactyls are horses, or that all stars are suns, or that all sports are forms of hockey. But it is no stretch at all to say conversely that human beings are apes, which is quite evidently the case.

What I would strongly suggest is to replace the homin– stem with the simi– stem which is derived from Latin simia “ape” and which is already being used for the infraorder Simiiformes (the infraorder that includes all monkeys, apes and human beings). The only instance of the homin– stem being retained should be for the subtribe Hominina which includes the genus Homo and its extinct bipedal predecessors (such as Australopithecus). The following cladogram shows the names that I am proposing:

Superfamily Simioidea (replacing Hominoidea)

                Family Hylobatidae (gibbons)

                Family Simiidae (replacing Hominidae)

                                Subfamily Ponginae

                                                Tribe Pongini

                                                                Genus Pongo (orangutan)

                                Subfamily Simiinae (replacing Homininae)

                                                Tribe Gorillini

                                                                Genus Gorilla (gorilla)

                                                Tribe Simiini (replacing Hominini)

                                                                Subtribe Panina

                                                                                Genus Pan (chimpanzee & bonobo)

                                                                Subtribe Hominina

                                                                                Genus Australopithecus

                                                                                Genus Homo (human being)

Having said this, I would personally favor reorganizing the subfamily Simiinae (former Homininae) as follows:

                                Subfamily Simiinae

                                                Tribe Simiini

                                                                Subtribe Gorillina

                                                                                Genus Gorilla

                                                                Subtribe Panina

                                                                                Genus Pan

                                                Tribe Hominini

                                                                Subtribe Australopithecina

                                                                                Genus Australopithecus

                                                                Subtribe Hominina

                                                                                Genus Homo