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Origins of Humankind
The Hominid Family Tree

Orrorin tugenensis
(6 mya)

Ardipithecus ramidus
(4.4 mya)

Australipithecus anamensis
(4.2 to 3.9 mya)

Australipithecus afarensis
(3.6 to 2.9 mya)

Kenyanthropus platyops
(3.5 to 3.3 mya)

Australipithecus africanus
(3 to 2 mya)

Australipithecus aethiopicus
(2.7 to 2.3 mya)

Australipithecus garhi
(2.5 mya)

Australipithecus boisei
(2.3 to 1.4 mya)

Homo habilis
(2.3 to 1.6 mya)

Homo erectus
(1.8 to 0.3 mya)

Australipithecus robustus
(1.8 to 1.5 mya)

Homo heidelbergensis
(600 to 100 tya)

Homo neanderthalensis
(250 to 30 tya)

Homo sapiens
(100 tya to present)

mya = millions of years ago        tya = thousands of years ago


Australopithecus africanus (3 to 2 million years ago)

Species Description:

Australopithecus africanus was nearly identical in body and brain size to A. afarensis. Like A. afarensis, A. africanus also showed marked differences in size between males and females. Although the teeth and jaws of A. africanus were much larger than modern human teeth, they are still more similar to ours than to the teeth of apes. The upper and lower jaws of A. africanus were also fully rounded in front, like those of modern humans, and their canine teeth were smaller on average than those of A. afarensis. Australopithecus africanus individuals probably inhabited open woodlands, where they would have foraged for fruits, seeds, and roots.

Fossil Finds:

Taung Child
Estimated age: 3 to 2 million years
Date of discovery: 1924
Location: Taung, South Africa

Collected by workers in a lime quarry, this was the first Australopithecus fossil ever discovered. The scientific community initially rejected the identification of this partial skull, saying that it was some sort of extinct ape species rather than an early form of hominid.

Mrs. Ples
Estimated age: 3 to 2 million years
Date of discovery: 1947
Location: Sterkfontein, South Africa

This adult cranium, most likely from a female A. africanus, is the best specimen of the species discovered so far.

STS 14

STS 14
Estimated age: 3 to 2 million years
Date of discovery: 1947
Location: Sterkfontein, South Africa

These remains of a small adult female include a nearly complete vertebral column, a pelvis, some rib fragments, and part of a femur. The pelvis is far more humanlike than apelike and is strong evidence that A. africanus was bipedal.

-> Go to Australipithecus aethiopicus

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