Australopithicus robustus: A contemporary of early human species
- page 1 -



In the 1930's and 40's, the first specimens of robust autralopithicines were discovered in east and southern Africa. These discoveries and the ones that have followed have considerably complicated our view of the hominid family tree. These creatures, which are now classified into several distinct species, represent a line--or several lines--of hominids which evolved along side early human species and undoubtedly interacted with them.

These australopithicines (ape species) are small brained (about 400 cc) compared to human species contemporaneous with them, and they are not regarded as ancestral to human beings,. Their huge teeth and skulls, often with prominent dorsal crests to which large jaw muscles attached, show that they specialized in eating tough plant material. They were apparently vegetarians, while our ancestors evolved as omnivores with a taste for meat.

The total number of these later australopithicine species is disputed. In 1959, an additional species or subspecies called A. boisei was discovered in the famous Olduvai Gorge of Tanzania, perhaps the best-known Hominid fossil site. In 1985, a remarkable skull [KNM WT 17000] was discovered near Lake Turkana in sediments 2.6 million years old. Its classification remains uncertain. In 1995, yet another species of australophithicine was discovered in the same region by the Leakey family. Skeletal remains of this species preserve direct evidence of bi-pedalism earlier than 4 million years ago.




Previous PageNext PageTimelineLong Foreground Home