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I.1.6.a Australopithecines


The fossils of Australopithecus were found at different places in Africa and outside Africa. It is a small brained bidep with a number of species within the same genus. Most of these variants are associated with savanna living.

Divided into two groups

I. Gracile:

It is considered to be an ancestor of Homo

Small and gracile in terms of body weight, skeletal features like dentition, facial musculature and cranial capacity.

Omnivore and probable tool maker. Feebly developed supra orbital ridges proves his diet

It includes

1. A. Anamensis:

  • Earliest Australopithecus species found in Northern Kenya

2. A. Afarensis:

  • Found at Lateoli in Tanzania and Hadar in Ethiopia
  • Human like footprints found at lateoli which confirm them to be bipedal
  • Large ape like canines but did not fit into diastema. Thus side to side movement of lower jaw was possible
  • A complete skeleton of gracile female called Lucy fossil was discovered by Donald Johnson at Hadar(Ehtiopia)

3. A.Africanus (Southern ape of Africa)

  • First Australopithecus to be discovered. Raymond Dart
  • Taung fossil: Juvenile fossil, Foramen Magnum located underneath the skull indicating bipedalism and erect posture, incisors and canine teeth were short like humans
  • Initially it was difficult to conclude on Australopithecus Africanus features based on child  fossil but later discoveries by Robert Broom at Sterkfontein and others at Makapansgat helped in deriving a complete picture:
  • Brain case is rounded, well developed forehead, moderate brow ridges.
II.  Robustus or Paranthropus

·         Large and robust with features such as supra orbital ridges and sagittal crust

·         Larger dentition

·         considered to be extinct with changing climate

It includes

1.A. Aethiopicus:

  • Earliest known robustus found in North Kenya and South Ethiopia

2.A. Robustus:

  • Discovered by Robert broom at Kromdraai. It is found to be living at the same time of A.Africanus though they have marked different hominid features.

3.A. Boisei or Zizanthropus:

  • Discovered by Louis Leakey at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania.The discovery demonstrated the presence of early hominids in east Africa.


Geographical disrtibution:

South Africa:   

1.Taung – A.Africanus

2.Sterkfontein – Plesianthropus Transvellenis

3.Makapansgat – A.Prometheus 


4.Kromdraai – A.Robustus

5.Swartkrans – Paranthropus Crassidens

East Africa:  1.Omo(ethiopia) – both gracile and robustus 

2. Hadar(Ethiopia) – A.Afarensis

3. Laetoli(Tanzania) – A.Afarensis


4.Olduvai(Tanzania) – A.Boisei





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