Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article. However, their skeletons show that they walked upright. Australopithecus is an extinct hominid which lived approximately 4 million to 2 million years ago from the Late Pliocene Period through the Early Pleistocene Period. Although similar to other australopithecines, it displayed some surprising features. Strauss, Bob. For years, paleontologists assumed that Australopithecus subsisted mostly on nuts, fruits, and hard-to-digest tubers, as evidenced by the shape of their teeth (and the wear on tooth' enamel). Australopithecus afarensis facts . Australopithecines include the genus Paranthropus (2.3–1.2 mya), which comprises three species of australopiths—collectively called the “robusts” because of their very large cheek teeth set in massive jaws. -had enormous chewing muscles indicated by the large attachment areas and a sagittal crest What the name means. It too is associated with woodland fauna. A very early hominin species has been ruled out as a direct ancestor of Homo sapiens.. Australopithecus synonyms, Australopithecus pronunciation, Australopithecus translation, English dictionary definition of Australopithecus. The name was originally created just for this species found in South Africa but several closely related species now share the same genus name. The earliest species of this genus, Au. "Australopithecus Profile." Its species were fully bipedal primates with ape-sized brains. This close temporal association has led some to suggest that it is the ancestor of our genus, although the lack of distinct Homo -like traits make this far from certain. Sivapithecus, the Primate Also Known as Ramapithecus, Australopithecus Afarensis Skeleton from Ethiopia, Lower Paleolithic: The Changes Marked by the Early Stone Age. A selection of locations in sub-Saharan Africa where hominid fossils have been found. Australopithecus was the first fossil hominid genus to be recovered. ThoughtCo. (2020, August 27). However, it's important not to overstate the extent to which Australopithecus was similar to modern humans. Bob Strauss is a science writer and the author of several books, including "The Big Book of What, How and Why" and "A Field Guide to the Dinosaurs of North America.". A. garhi lived about 2.5 million years ago. The fossils date to 4.2–3.9 mya, and, like Ardipithecus, Au. The first Australopithecus described was the Taung Child, discovered by Raymond Dart, and described in 1925.. Their remains are mostly found in East Africa, and the first fossil is from 3.9 million years ago (mya). Ar. Its name, Australopithecus, means southern ape. Updates? The remains of Ar. afarensis. Australopithecus afarensisis one of the longest-lived and best-known early human species—paleoanthropologists have uncovered remains from more than 300 individuals! Australopithecus. The foot is notably apelike with elongated toes and a fully divergent great toe for moving about in trees. Ardipithecus-Lived in 5.8 - 4.4 Mya(the end of the Miocene & beginning of the Pliocene epoch)-Probably ancestral to Australopithecus Afarensis-Brain volume was about the size of a modern chimpanzee-Tim White of Berkeley, the anatomist says:"Ramidus is the first species this side of our common ancestor with chimpanzees." Director of the Institute of Human Origins and Professor of Paleoanthropology, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona. The genus name, meaning “southern ape,” refers to the first fossils found, which were discovered in South Africa. The name was originally created just for this species found in South Africa but several closely related species now share the same genus name. Perhaps the most famous specimen of Australopithecus is “Lucy,” a remarkably preserved fossilized skeleton from Ethiopia that has been dated to 3.2 mya. Animal fossils, pollen, and other evidence associated with Ar. Except for A. anamensis, A. afarensis is the most primitive member of its genus. Australopithecine definition is - any of various extinct hominids (genera Australopithecus and Paranthropus) that existed two to four million years ago in southern and eastern Africa and include gracile and robust forms exhibiting bipedal locomotion, near-human dentition, and relatively small brains. Australopithecus is a genus of early hominins that existed in Africa during the Late Pliocene and Early Pleistocene. A badly crushed and distorted cranium found at Lomekwi on the western shore of Lake Turkana in northern Kenya in 1998 was assigned to a new genus and species, “human from Kenya,” Kenyanthropus platyops (3.5 mya). Directed By: Hamed Almasi 2. Size and Weight: Varies by species; mostly about four feet tall and 50 to 75 pounds Although there's always the possibility that a stunning new fossil discovery will upset the hominid apple cart, for now, paleontologists agree that the prehistoric primate Australopithecus was immediately ancestral to genus Homo, which today is represented by only a single species, Homo sapiens. The various species of Australopithecus lived 4.4 million to 1.4 million years ago (mya), during the Pliocene and Pleistocene epochs (which lasted from 5.3 million to 11,700 years ago). Ring in the new year with a Britannica Membership, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Australopithecus, Maropeng and Sterkfontein Caves - Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site - Australopithecus. ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/australopithecus-1093049. By signing up for this email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica. ‘Lucy’ Australopithecus afarensis skull Discovered: 1974 by Donald Johanson in Hadar, Ethiopia. They tended to have longer arms that seemed well-suited to climbing. The first undisputed evidence of the genus Homo—the genus that includes modern human beings—appears as early as 2.8 mya, and some of the characteristics of Homo resemble those of earlier species of Australopithecus; however, considerable debate surrounds the identity of the earliest species of Homo. The hominid prints were produced by three individuals, one walking in the footprints of the other, making the original tracks difficult to discover. ramidus (5.8–4.4 mya)—that is, pre-Australopithecus species that are considered to be ancient humans—and one additional species of early human, Kenyanthropus platyops (3.5 mya). Australopithecus afarensis from Laetoli and Hadar . Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/australopithecus-1093049. Omissions? Bipedalism, however, appears to have been established in the six-million-year-old Orrorin tugenensis, a pre-Australopithecus found in the Tugen Hills near Lake Baringo in central Kenya. In Australopithecus: Early species and Australopithecus anamensis Identifying the earliest member of the human tribe (Hominini) is difficult because the predecessors of modern humans become increasingly apelike as the fossil record is followed back through time. -Australopithecus garhi was found here. Identifying the earliest member of the human tribe (Hominini) is difficult because the predecessors of modern humans become increasingly apelike as the fossil record is followed back through time. The most famous Australopithecus is the 3.5 foot tall skeleton named “Lucy,” discovered in 1974 by paleontologist Donald C. Johanson in Hadar, Ethiopia. Definition of Australopithecus : a genus of extinct early hominids of southern and eastern Africa comprising the australopithecines when considered to include both the gracile and robust forms The advanced prehuman Australopithecus first appears in the middle Pliocene, 3.5 million years ago … They are collectively known as the ‘robusts’ because of their extremely large jaws and molar teeth. -Bouri is located in the Middle Awash, Ethiopia. Reconstructed replica of the skull of “Lucy,” a 3.2-million-year-old. Not predator, but prey. (The most famous specimen of A. afarensis is the famous "Lucy.") A. africanus appeared on the scene a few hundred thousand years later; it was similar in most ways to its immediate ancestor, although slightly bigger and better adapted to a plains lifestyle. You can opt-out at any time. afarensis derive…. The ape-like Australopithecus sediba was first discovered near … Whether the species walked upright is not known because only a single cranium, fragments from one or more mandibles (lower jaws), and some teeth have been found. Approximate time ranges of sites yielding australopith fossils. Furthermore, the teeth of some species were more like human teeth. https://www.thoughtco.com/australopithecus-1093049 (accessed January 27, 2021). In fact, Australopithecus seems to have occupied a place fairly far down on the Pliocene food chain, with numerous individuals succumbing to predation by the meat-eating megafauna mammals of their African habitat. It was then described and named by Raymond Dart in 1925. The species was first described in 1995 after an analysis of isolated teeth, upper and lower jaws, fragments of a cranium, and a tibia unearthed at the discovery sites. The members of the subtribe are generally Australopithecus (cladistically including the genera Homo, Paranthropus, and Kenyanthropus), and it typically includes the earlier Ardipithecus, Orrorin, Sahelanthropus, and Graecopithecus. Non-australopithecine members of the human lineage (hominins) include Sahelanthropus tchadensis (7–6 mya), Orrorin tugenensis (6 mya), Ardipithecus kadabba (5.8–5.2 mya), and Ar. kadabba and may belong to another species of early hominin. "Australopithecus Profile." Strauss, Bob. Lucy stood about 3 feet 7 inches (109 cm) tall and weighed about 60 pounds (27 kg). STS 5, a nearly complete adult Australopithecus africanus, was an important fossil find because skeptics had previously argued that the Taung Child was actually a baby chimpanzee that would have gained its ape-like features when it got older. Which of the following are accurate descriptions of both Australopithecus aethiopicus and Australopithecus boisei. Strauss, Bob. Another candidate for the earliest hominin is classified in the genus Ardipithecus (5.8–4.4 mya). Please refer to the appropriate style manual or other sources if you have any questions. The skull is apelike with a tiny brain—300–350 cc (18.3–21.4 cubic inches), which is equivalent to a brain weight of about 300–350 grams (10.6–12.3 ounces)—and a prognathic (projecting) snout. As characterized by the fossil evidence, members of Australopithecus bore a combination of humanlike and apelike traits. It was first discovered in 1924 in Taung, South Africa. afarensis, a species represented by more than 400 fossil specimens from virtually every region of the hominin skeleton. The case for its hominin status rests on the humanlike features of the femur. In 2001 these fossils were described as the earliest known hominin. The best-known member of Australopithecus is Au. Australopithecus, means ‘southern ape’. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Australopithecina or Hominina is a subtribe in the tribe Hominini. Dating to about 3.5 million years ago, A. afarensis was about the size of a grade-schooler; its "human-like" traits included a bipedal posture and a brain slightly bigger than a chimpanzee's, but it still possessed a distinctly chimp-like face. For example, the purported earliest species, Sahelanthropus tchadensis, is humanlike in having a slightly reduced canine tooth and a face that does not project forward very far. Australopithecus garhi. The Australopithecus species, referred to as Australopithecines, had features that were both human-like and ape-like. O. tugenensis is primitive in most if not all of its anatomy, except for femurs (thighbones) that appear to share traits of bipedalism with modern humans. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. In general, their facial features looked more ape-like than human, with sloping faces and jutting jaws. These footprints were preserved in volcanic ash and most likely belong to an early Hominin such as LUCY (Australopithecus afarensis). Dated to between about 3.8 and 2.9 mya, 90 percent of the fossils assigned to Au. Age: 3.2 million years old This relatively complete female skeleton is the most famous individual from this species, nicknamed ‘Lucy’ after the song ‘Lucy in the sky with diamonds’ sung by The Beatles. Match the species to the best description: Lived from about 4 to 1 million years ago. -Australopithecus platyops is one of the most poorly represented hominins. anamensis is associated with woodland animals and a few grassland species as well. ramidus, which was discovered in the middle Awash valley in 1992 at a site named Aramis, is known from a crushed and distorted partial skeleton. Australopithecus Profile. The general term australopith (or australopithecine) is used informally to refer to members of the genus Australopithecus. For more details, see our Privacy Policy. Australopithecus, means ‘southern ape’. The material from Laetoli and Hadar (fragmentary remains of 60-100 individuals) constitutes the largest and best-studied assemblage of early hominids. She lived in Ethiopia 3.2 million years ago. Australopithecus garhi is one of the last Australopiths, appearing just before the emergence of Homo habilis. Its species were fully bipedal primates with ape-sized brains. Several other anatomical characteristics of Ar. They resemble what would be expected in the common ancestor of humans and apes… While the canine tooth is apelike in some respects, it does not exhibit the classic interlocking honing complex (where the inner side of the upper canine sharpens itself against the lower premolar [or bicuspid]). It is based on ‘australo’, a Latin word meaning ‘southern’ and ‘pithecus’, a Greek word meaning ‘ape’. Australopithecus africanus (3 to 2 million years ago) Species Description: Australopithecus africanus was nearly identical in body and brain size to A. afarensis . The fact is that the brains of A. afarensis and A. africanus were only about a third the size of those of Homo sapiens, and there's no convincing evidence, aside from the circumstantial details cited above, that these hominids were capable of using tools (though some paleontologists have made this claim for A. africanus). ramidus, which have apelike thin enamel. Whether this singular specimen is truly a new species is widely debated, since the cranium may be a highly distorted example of another species, Au. The upper limb differs from that of modern humans. Australopithecus Match the following species to the best description: Chimp sized with upper arm bones that suggest tree-climbing abilities and thigh bones suggesting bipedalism. But then researchers discovered evidence of animal butchering and consumption, dating to about 2.6 and 3.4 million years ago, in Ethiopia, demonstrating that some species of Australopithecus may have supplemented their plant diets with small servings of meat—and may (emphasis on the "may") have used stone tools to kill their prey. kadabba (5.8–5.2 mya), which were discovered in the middle Awash River valley in the Afar region of Ethiopia (a depression located in the northern part of the country that extends northeast to the Red Sea), comprise fragments of limb bones, isolated teeth, a partial mandible, and a toe bone. The genus Paranthropus currently includes three species, Paranthropus boisei, Paranthropus robustus, and Paranthropus walkeri. She is an Australopithecus afarensis and lived in Eastern Africa between 3.85 and 2.95 million years ago.. Then in 2000 the skeletal remains of a 3-year-old young female of the same species was found in Dikika, not far from Lucy’s site. The genera Homo (which includes modern humans), Paranthropus, and Kenyanthropus evolved from Australopithecus. ramidus suggest that it was adapted to an arboreal setting. They resemble what would be expected in the common ancestor of humans and apes in that they possess a mix of human and ape traits. The first Australopithecus described was the Taung Child, discovered by Raymond Dart, and described in 1925.. Their remains are mostly found in East Africa, and the first fossil is from 3.9 million years ago (mya). Australopithecus: small brain, long arms Homo: broad pelvis, non curved phalanges The extremely large hands of the species suggest a lifestyle that included significant climbing and other activities among the trees. However, in most other respects, including brain size, it is apelike. The toe bone assigned to Ardipithecus exhibits bipedal anatomy, but it was found in sediments 400,000 years younger than, and some 20 km (12.4 miles) away from, the fossil used to define Ar. Found between 3.85 and 2.95 million years ago in Eastern Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania), this species survived for more than 900,000 years, which is over four times as long as our own species has been around. Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article (requires login). The canines are large, the lower first premolar They are our distant ‘cousins’ rather than our direct relatives. According to its discoverers, features of the thighbone implying bipedalism include its overall proportions, the internal structure of the femoral neck (the column joining the ball-shaped head of the femur to the shaft of the bone), and a groove on the bone for a muscle used in upright walking (the obturator externus). Their canine teeth were smaller than those found in apes, and their cheek teeth were larger than those of modern humans. Australopithecus is a genus of extinct hominids closely related to humans.. Australopithecus, (Latin: “southern ape”) (genus Australopithecus), group of extinct primates closely related to, if not actually ancestors of, modern human beings and known from a series of fossils found at numerous sites in eastern, north-central, and southern Africa. The fossils are significant as they help fill the period between 2 and 3 million years ago; a time with a poor human fossil record. Get a Britannica Premium subscription and gain access to exclusive content. Species include A. garhi, A. africanus, A. sediba, A. afarensis, A. anamensis, A. bahrelgh… The pelvis is a mix of ape and human traits; it appears to be broader, shorter, and narrower than an ape’s pelvis and reminiscent of a bipedal pelvis. A third species of Australopithecus, A. robustus, was so much bigger than these other two species (with a bigger brain as well) that it's now usually assigned to its own genus, Paranthropus. One of the most controversial aspects of the various species of Australopithecus is their presumed diets, which are related intimately to their use (or non-use) of primitive tools. Please select which sections you would like to print: While every effort has been made to follow citation style rules, there may be some discrepancies. Replica of a 3.2- to 3.5-million-year-old. The specimen is usually classified as Australopithecus afarensis and suggests—by having long arms, short legs, an apelike chest and jaw, and a small brain but a relatively humanlike pelvis—that bipedal locomotion preceded the development of a larger (more humanlike) brain in hominin evolution. -Only indirect evidence of stone tool use in the form of cut marks and smashed bones has been found here. Australopithecines 1. It is based on ‘australo’, a Latin word meaning ‘southern’ and ‘pithecus’, a Greek word meaning ‘ape’. (Paleontologists have yet to pin down the exact time when the genus Homo first evolved from Australopithecus; the best guess is that Homo habilis derived from a population of Australopithecus in Africa about two million years ago.). anamensis, which was discovered in northern Kenya near Lake Turkana at Kanapoi and Allia Bay. It is very long, which allowed its fingertips to extend at least to the knee. The earliest member of the genus Australopithecus is Au. ramidus also indicate that it was at home in a wooded environment (see also Ardi). The tibia (shinbone) exhibits anatomy at both the knee and ankle ends characteristic of later bipedal hominins. Like later hominins, it has teeth with thick molar enamel, but, unlike humans, it has distinctively apelike canine and premolar teeth. Lived: 3.7 million to three million years ago Where: East Africa Appearance: a projecting face, an upright stance and a mixture of ape-like and human-like body features Brain size: about 385-550cm 3 Height: about 1-1.7m (females were much shorter than males) Weight: about 25-64kg (females were significantly smaller than males) Australopithecus, (Latin: “southern ape”) (genus Australopithecus), group of extinct primates closely related to, if not actually ancestors of, modern human beings and known from a series of fossils found at numerous sites in eastern, north-central, and southern Africa. anamensis , appeared in Kenya … The snout is prognathic. In contrast, remains older than six million years are widely regarded to be those of fossil apes. Their brains were smaller and more in the range of the brains of modern apes. The split from other apes would have taken place earlier, perhaps about 5 mya. Australopithecus is a genus of extinct hominids closely related to humans.. Corrections? Australopithecus is a member of the subtribe Australopithecina, which also includes Ardipithecus, though the term "australopithecine" is sometimes used to refer only to members of Australopithecus. The foramen magnum (large hole) at the base of the skull is located under the braincase, as in a biped, and not posteriorly, as in a quadrupedal (four-legged) ape (see skull). They were similar to modern humans in that they were bipedal (that is, they walked on two legs), but, like apes, they had small brains. The teeth have thick enamel, like the teeth of all later hominins but unlike those of Ar. The split from other apes would have taken place earlier, perhaps about 5 mya. The two most important species of Australopithecus were A. afarensis, named after the Afar region of Ethiopia, and A. africanus, which was discovered in South Africa. 'Lucy' is a collection of fossilised bones that once made up the skeleton of a hominid from the Australopithecus afarensis species. 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