The genus homo within the Marvel Universe is far more prolific and active than in the real world, all variations of which occur within the species homo sapiens. Blessed with no less than at least 7 sub-genus entries, it stands as a far stronger and more varied species within the Marvel Universe than it could ever hope to be in the real world. The seven subspecies are:
- Ape Men - Original primitive members that evolved before the modern homo sapiens
- Homo sapiens sapiens - foolishly referred to as "humans;" possessed of no inherent powers whatsoever
- Homo sapiens superior - referred to as "mutants," and the next stage of evolution for homo sapiens sapiens; almost certainly born with superpowers and/or differing appearance
- Homo sapiens mermanus - referred to as "Atlanteans;" possessed of gills, blue or green skin, enhanced physicality
- Homo sapiens terrigenus - referred to as "Inhumans;" possessed of incredible adaptation to onset mutations of unpredictable effect, induced by a mutagenic known as the Terrigen Mists (physical appearance mutations are inherited)
- Homo sapiens eternalis - referred to as "Eternals;" possessed of near-infinite lifespans, and standard energy-manipulation powers in addition to other possible abilities
- Homo sapiens deviantus - referred to as "Deviants;" possessed of deformed appearance, with each member manifesting a random mutation
The entire branching off of the species homo sapiens came with the arrival at Earth of the Celestials, the Space Gods of genetic engineering; the Celestials as a race have their origins shrouded in mystery, and are beings of phenomenal cosmic power and knowledge, but are definitely known to visit planets across the universe, enhancing the local sentient faunae, returning periodically to monitor the progress of their charges.
It was a mission of such intent that led to the creation of modern man. At some point between 400,000 years ago and the second interglacial period in the Middle Pleistocene (around 250,000 years ago) the trend in cranial expansion and the elaboration of stone tool technologies developed, providing evidence for a transition from homo erectus (meaning “upright man”) to homo sapiens (meaning “wise man”); this origin/transition is speculated by human scientists as either due to a uni-regional development that spread (which seems likely, due to the general genetic homogeneity of homo sapiens sapiens) or multi-regional developments that merged.
The interesting thing is that no-one is certain quite how the homo sapiens species came to be from the different ancestors within the homo genus; it seems it was not an entirely naturally-occurring development. The homo genus was taken and experimented upon by the Celestials, creating the homo sapiens species, already with three distinct subspecies: homo sapiens eternalis, the subspecies with the genetic potential for phenomenal power and longevity; homo sapiens deviantus, the subspecies possessed of some power and physical characteristics which radically change, beyond bilateral symmetry, with each generation; and the subspecies that would become homo sapiens sapiens, the supposed “baseline” subspecies which contained the potential for benevolent mutation of phenomenal capacity in its future.
It must be noted that, whilst the subspecies homo sapiens sapiens was the genetic stock from which sprung homo sapiens mermanus and homo sapiens terrigenus (by various means), the fact that these two are now sufficiently genetically distinct as to merit their own subspecies classifications seems to suggest that the same capacity for benevolent mutation found in homo sapiens sapiens (with particular reference to the “x-gene,” the gene whose manifestation in the genetic structure of an otherwise ordinary homo sapiens sapiens marks the being as homo sapiens superior) is highly unlikely, although not impossible, to be found in either subspecies.
The species forged from the “human” template by the Celestial manipulations, homo sapiens are incredibly varied in subspecies and potential, possessing a total of seven sub-genuses (although homo sapiens mermanus appeared through unknown means, homo sapiens superior evolved after the initial subspecies divisions, and homo sapiens terrigenus were in fact artificially engineered from the stock of homo sapiens sapiens by the alien Kree race. It is also possible that Vargas represents a new direction in homo sapiens). All have a standard humanoid physical morphological template, although exceptions are possible within both homo sapiens superior and homo sapiens terrigenus, and almost inevitable within homo sapiens deviantus; additionally, homo sapiens mermanus are typically endowed with either blue-tinted or green-tinted skin.
Ape Men and their descendants
A long time ago, early versions of homo sapiens were transported to the Savage Land by an alien race called the Nuwali, where they continued to live and survive while they seems be have become extinct in the rest of the world. When descendents from the Atlantis empire discovered Savage Land, they performed genetic engineering on the primitive humans living there, resulting in animal like species like the lizard people, bird people and the amphibious fish people, or in tribes that looked like modern humans. The Neanderthal looking humans called the Man Apes are the only ones left of the non-altered members of the human races in Savage Land, and it is said Ka-Zar killed all the male members of the last tribe except from a male called Maa-Gor. Because of all the different races this group has given rise to, it must be considered as an artificial sub-genus. But they all have in common that they are evolved from ancestors that were already separated from the later versions of homo sapiens, and are because of this included as a single sub species.
Homo sapiens sapiens
This subspecies of humanity, known as “humans,” “flatscans,” or “normals,” are born without powers, and are considered the “base stock” of the Celestial altered homo sapiens. Despite their considerable inferiority when compared with both Eternals and Deviants as far as inherited power is concerned, it was homo sapiens sapiens who retained the greatest genetic potential, their DNA altered to be the most receptive to benevolent mutations of all forms. With the most robust DNA sequences (and therefore greatest potential for superhuman adaptation) of any race the Celestials have altered, mainstream humanity have remained the most populous, yet have seen offshoots (in the form of homo sapiens mermanus and homo sapiens terrigenus) and evolutions (in the form of homo sapiens superior) leading to separate subspecies, and even individual examples of stable, artificially induced mutations of the genome, such as Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, or even the Fantastic Four. These artificial benevolent mutations have been induced in a variety of ways, including direct exposure to radiation of varying types, indirect exposure to radiation, exposure to exotic particles, or exposure to a chemical agent delivered within a serum. Another ways to gain superpowers is through genetics and eugenics, like in the case with Fantomex. According to the Supreme Intelligence of Kree, all members of the human race have the potential to reach a latent evolutionary potential which includes god-like powers like "the Destiny Force", but the level and state of the present humankind makes them still too fragile and weak to survive and handle such powers.
"Humanity" in the Marvel Universe, once established as homo sapiens sapiens, developed much as it did in the real world, generally ignorant of its genetic relatives the Eternals and Deviants, and even of the few isolated cases of mutation (with the earliest recorded being the homo sapiens superior En Sabar Nur, known as Apocalypse, in 3000 B.C.) to, on the whole, develop identical cultures to those of the real world, parallel in almost every way; at least until WWII in 1939, when the appearance of superbeings became proliferated, and unable to avoid.
Changes between human cultures in the Marvel Universe and the real world since that point have entirely reflected the greater presences of superbeings, notably homo sapiens superior ("mutants"), although in recent times all superhumans have been targeted by certain bodies; this can be seen in such governmental legislations as the weakly-backed Mutant Registration Act, and the current, popular Super Hero Registration Act, and traditional prejudices against mutants and certain other superbeings.
Homo sapiens superior
It is possible for those within the homo sapiens sapiens subspecies, due to their genetic potential to support benevolent mutations, to spontaneously develop a gene within the newly created zygote which endows superhuman abilities and/or appearance on the individual; however, anyone born with this “x-gene” is automatically a member of the separate subspecies homo sapiens superior, distinguished only by the presence of a single gene. The gifts endowed by the presence of the gene can be minimal (one mutant, Jazz, simply has blue skin), to phenomenal (such as the abilities of any well-known powerful mutant hero or villain, for example, many of the X-Men, or former members of the Brotherhood of Mutants). There are any number of theories as to what can catalyze the development of the gene within an individual, ranging from sunspot activity, to parental exposure to radiation in some form; however, ultimately, the answer is unknown.
The number of so-called "mutants" within humanity as a whole has risen dramatically, and fallen almost as dramatically, since the first recorded appearance of a known mutant, 5000 years earlier, with the birth of En Sabah Nur, later known as Apocalypse. Apocalypse was a lone mutant, but almost 5000 years later, by the 1970s, there were hundreds. Due to unknown causes, the mutant population exploded within the following decades, seeing perhaps 32 million worldwide by the 1990s (the evil Cassandra Nova exterminated 16 million with her Sentinel attacks, and that was theorized to be approximately half of the mutant population). Finally, in the Decimation event of 2005, Wanda Maximoff’s alteration of reality removed the powers of most of the remaining 16 million, leaving perhaps a few hundred remaining mutants on the Earth.
The circumstances and opinions surrounding mutants as a political body have always been very much polarized, presumably because of a similar polarization within the attitudes of the mutant community; some strove for acceptance, whilst others declared themselves “humanity’s successors” and sought to take their place by force. As a result, opinions on how to deal with the mutant community have always been similarly divided. There have been attempts to exterminate mutants (with the robotic Sentinels, or the deadly Legacy Virus, amongst other things), enslave them (using the mutate process created by the Sugar Man and employed by the Genegineer of Genosha), or indeed both (such as the Weapon Plus programs), and even appease them (such as when Magneto was given sovereign command of the country of Genosha); it has only been recently that mutants have been accepted as members of society by law, as equal to other superhumans (as evidenced by the Super Hero Registration Act, which affects all with superhuman abilities, regardless of origin of said abilities).
However, as a side note, given the events of the series Son of M in which the depowered mutant Quicksilver restored the powers of other “fallen” mutants in the wake of the Decimation event, it seems likely that the mutant x-gene, the presence of which denotes a being as homo sapiens superior rather than homo sapiens sapiens, either leaves a “genetic shadow” within the rest of the individual’s DNA, or takes its characteristics from said DNA. However, it is more likely that both assertions are correct.
This can be stated due to evidence witnessed; the traditionally Inhuman-controlled Terrigenesis (the taking of the mutagenic Terrigen Mists) was a process designed to induce benevolent mutations to maximize the genetic potential of the individual, creating unique powers. Now, given that applying Terrigenesis to a former mutant restores powers of a similar nature to their own, it can be seen that the general genetics of an individual seem to give some shape as to which powers they will manifest (the ultimate genetic fingerprint); however, since the powers are restored at far greater level than they existed before, it seems likely that the DNA sequence of a mutant, even a former mutant, contains far more inherent power than that of a human (and almost certainly more than most Inhumans).
Homo sapiens mermanus
It is not known how the genetic deviation or offshoot from homo sapiens sapiens that is homo sapiens mermanus came to be; however, given the stable level of difference, some form of artificial adaptation would be implied - to have so many evolve these traits over a small number of generations would prove impractical, and indeed likely impossible on the sort of timescale that must be presented, given that humanity came to be mere thousands of years ago.
The actual Atlantis sunk in the “Great Cataclysm” event some 10,000 years prior to the current era, with those who would become Atlanteans first remaking it as their home approximately 2,000 years later. A largely peaceable existence has been their lot since then, at least as far as confrontation with surface-dwellers was concerned, at least until the 20th Century, which saw hostile interactions between surface-dwellers and Atlanteans, whether between the groups as a whole, or when the Atlanteans sided with the Allied Powers in WWII. However, the Atlanteans are currently at peace with the surface.
What is known is that the subspecies known as “Atlanteans” have now reached the extension of the homo sapiens species similarity; the genetic distinctions are at their ultimate point, meaning that genetic disconnection from the other subspecies is almost complete. This can be witnessed by the fact that all known pure Atlantean/human hybrids (Namor, Namora, Namorita) are infertile; this effect can also be witnessed in a mule (a donkey/horse hybrid, infertile because the two are sufficiently genetically distinct to be declared separate species).
As a race, the average Atlantean is far more powerful than the average “human” - they stand capable of speeds of swimming up to 30 mph, breathe perfectly underwater (although cannot survive on the surface for more than 5 minutes), have a life-span of approximately 150 years, and are far more physically durable and strong than the average human, as a side effect of living in such a high-pressure environment.
Additionally, there are an offshoot of Atlanteans known as Lemurians; they are typically distinguished by their greener skin and reptilian appearance, although their powers remain identical to their Atlantean counterparts.
Homo sapiens terrigenus
These beings were created by Kree experimentation on primitive homo sapiens sapiens after the genetic potential of terrestrial humanoid species was discovered by the vivisection of an Eternal, a follower of Uranos. The Kree created the Inhumans in an attempt to break their own genetic stagnation, and create an army of mutant soldiers.
However, the experiment was abandoned for unknown reasons, and the Inhumans created a society of their own. Powers were induced by the powerful mutagenic chemical known as the Terrigen Mists, although this exposure created lasting genetic damage, and physical aberrations, amongst the Inhumans. As a protective measure, a prohibitive eugenics program was instituted, to minimize the impact of such damage. Now, bound by strict caste structures and breeding laws, only suitable Inhumans are allowed access to the Terrigen Mists. Additionally, power level after Terrigenesis dictates one’s place in society.
As suggested, the power levels and appearances of Inhumans vary greatly, from the insignificant to the awesome, much as mutants. Recently, it has been revealed that Terrigenesis is not exclusive to the Inhumans, but can be applied to former mutants, their powers removed in the Decimation event.
Homo sapiens eternalis
This subspecies started with almost nothing compared to what they would attain; their genetic potential was great, seeded with latent genes to provide eternal life and virtual invulnerability, in addition to other powers; yet these lay dormant within their systems.
A civil war destroyed the unity of these beings, in their first generation. A difference in ideologies saw the Eternals Kronos and Uranos pit their followers against each other, with Kronos’ army prevailing, driving Uranos and his followers from Earth. This is particularly relevant to the genetics of the subspecies, since much changed after this schism.
Uranos and his exiles found a Kree supply store on Uranus, hoping to come back to Earth and retake it by force using parts to create a vessel for themselves. Several stayed behind to form their own colony, but this was ill fated, and wiped out before the 20th Century.
Uranos and his followers were attacked by the Kree before reaching Earth, with one member taken for vivisection (the analysis revealed a terrestrial origin, which prompted the Kree to begin the experiments which would lead to the Inhumans), leading the remaining party to limp to Saturn’s moon Titan, forming a colony there.
On Earth, Kronos pursued experiments into cosmic energies; however, one of these experiments would have results quite different than expected. Exploding in his face, Kronos was atomized, his energies becoming the Titan God of Time, whilst all other Earth Eternals were doused in fallout radiation; these radiations altered the genetics of all Eternals they touched, activating their latent abilities, and ensuring that all born to the Earth Eternals would have similarly activated genes and levels of power.
It was this which created the second schism of the Eternals; in the first Uni-Mind, it was decided that Kronos’ son Zuras would succeed him. However, in order to avoid dissention, the other son, Alars, left, arriving on Titan. There, he encountered Sui-San, the last of the Titan Eternals, and the two repopulated Titan; however, the new Titan Eternals were less powerful than their Earth counterparts, since Sui-San had none of the augmented genetics possessed by all Earth Eternals.
Earth Eternals have astonishing power derived from channeling cosmic energies, capable of using this power for such varied feats as matter rearrangement, energy blasts, flight, super-strength, virtual invulnerability and an almost infinite lifespan. Titan Eternals are, on the whole, endowed with similar powers to lesser levels, although the individual Thanos has surpassed all Eternals in power; his powers were already greater than any Eternal of Titan, and have been augmented with technology and mystic energies, not to mention a great increase in power attached to his resurrection at the hands of Mistress Death.
Homo sapiens deviantus
The race known as "Deviants" were the third of those created by the Celestial machinations; they were endowed with an unusual genetic gift: their physical appearances alter dramatically within each generation, driven by mutation rather than standard bilateral genetic matching. These mutations would often confer superpowers as well as physical deformities, but the powers granted would never be the equal of those wielded by Eternals.
As a result of the ugliness and deformities as standard within the Deviant race, coupled with the beauty of their foes, the Eternals, have lead to a societal structure which abhors physical beauty, to the point of killing those deemed too beautiful.
However, the Deviants were masters of science, having perfected cloning and other genetic manipulation tools whilst mainstream humanity were still living in caves; this was demonstrated by the beast Spore, an unstoppable creature capable of assimilating the genetic codes of any creature assimilated into its mass.
As all races are simply subspecies of the species homo sapiens, crossbreeding is necessarily possible between all of them. Logically, because they can interbreed, they cannot be of distinct species. This can be proven and demonstrated from a variety of established incidents:
-Homo sapiens sapiens can breed with homo sapiens superior (proven in the birth of the beings known as Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, to Magneto and his human wife, Magda) - this may result in either “human” or “mutant” children.
-Homo sapiens superior can breed with homo sapiens terrigenus (as shown by Luna, the daughter of Quicksilver and Crystal) - these children may or may not be born “mutant,” but based on available evidence are receptive to Terrigenesis.
-Homo sapiens sapiens can breed with homo sapiens mermanus (as shown by Namor the Sub-Mariner, son of Leonard McKenzie and an Atlantean princess) - based on available evidence, a deus ex machina effect occurs when these two meet, producing a being of superpowered status in either race; this effect can be confirmed in Namor, and the being Namorita, herself a direct genetic clone of Namora (another Atlantean/human hybrid), both of whom possess identical abilities to those of Namor, and the same infertility, (although Namorita possesses several minor differences due to DNA alteration by a villain whilst incubating) or indeed in the villain Tiger Shark, himself a product of human and Atlantean DNA strains, although his differing powers are due to the willful contamination of his otherwise pure hybridization with certain DNA traits of a tiger shark.
-Homo sapiens sapiens can breed with homo sapiens eternalis (proven by the fact that a “regular human” woman could act as surrogate mother for the children of Thena, the Eternal) - however, there is as yet no known example of an Eternal and a human mate together producing a child with Eternal superhuman traits.
-Homo sapiens deviantus can breed with homo sapiens terrigenus (shown by Maelstrom, an Inhuman/Deviant hybrid) - however, there is only one recorded result, and so it is not certain if the great power level demonstrated is standard for these crossbreeds.
-Homo sapiens eternalis can breed with homo sapiens deviantus (shown by Dark Angel, the twin children born to Thena the Eternal, and Kro the Deviant) - the offspring are registered as Deviant, although it is unknown if this is a standard result.
-Whilst it was already known that the homo sapiens aeternus of Earth and Titan can interbreed (shown by the fact that Mentor and Sui-San, along with others, were able to repopulate Titan to some extent), it seems likely that the mutation of the Eternal Thanos may have been in some way an unlikely, yet possible, result of this hybridization. This inference can be drawn from the fact that there have been no records of any similar mutations either in the Earth Eternals, or the pre-Mentor Titanian Eternals.