Australopithecines, meaning "southern ape", is a group of early hominids first discovered and named by Raymond Dart. The group is characterized by bipedal locomotion and relatively small cranial capacity - similar to that of apes. Australopithecines are variably classified into one, two or three different genera.
Specimens in this group have been dated from c. 4.4 million years ago (mya) - Australopithecus anamensis - to c. 1 mya - Australopithecus boisei. It is worth noting that some of the later members of this genus coexisted with early Homo species.
Species in this genus and their type specimens:
- Robust (see below):
These robust Australopithecines (aethiopicus, boisei, and robustus) are assigned to a seperate genus, Paranthropus by some, though many cite a lack of substantial difference in post-cranial morphology as justification for leaving the genus intact. The robust Australopithecines were vegetarian, rather than omnivorous, and therefore had larger teeth and a more projecting jaw, as well as other more pronounced facial features.
- Harker, D.W., 2004. Human Evolution. Bristol: UWE (Not published).