What is the subtribe that Australopithecus is a member of?
Which Australopithecus species is thought to have given rise to the genus Homo?
What is the estimated age of the human-chimpanzee last common ancestor according to the Chimpanzee Genome Project?
What percentage of the size of a modern human brain were the brains of most species of Australopithecus?
What is the name of the first Australopithecus specimen discovered in 1924 in South Africa?
What is the Lomekwi culture and when was it discovered?
Which Australopithecus species was initially attributed to butchery based on cut marks found on a bovid leg, but the attribution is now questionable?
Which notable Australopithecus specimen has been suggested as a potential ancestor of Homo?
What did early analyses of dental microwear in A. africanus and Paranthropus robustus show?
Australopithecus is a genus of early hominins that existed in Africa during the Pliocene and Early Pleistocene, and is a member of the subtribe Australopithecina, which sometimes also includes Ardipithecus. Homo, Paranthropus, and Kenyanthropus evolved from some Australopithecus species. The earliest known member of the genus, A. anamensis, existed in eastern Africa around 4.2 million years ago. Australopithecus fossils become more widely dispersed throughout eastern and southern Africa, before eventually becoming pseudo-extinct 1.9 million years ago. Australopithecus gave rise to living descendants, as the genus Homo emerged from an Australopithecus species at some time between 3 and 2 million years ago. Australopithecus species include A. garhi, A. africanus, A. sediba, A. afarensis, A. anamensis, A. bahrelghazali and A. deyiremeda, and debate exists as to whether some Australopithecus species should be reclassified into new genera. The first Australopithecus specimen was discovered in 1924 in a lime quarry by workers at Taung, South Africa. The brains of most species of Australopithecus were roughly 35% of the size of a modern human brain. Australopiths shared several traits with modern apes and humans, and were widespread throughout Eastern and Northern Africa by 3.5 million years ago. According to the Chimpanzee Genome Project, the human–chimpanzee last common ancestor existed about five to six million years ago. Australopithecus species are thought to have eaten mainly fruit, vegetables, and tubers, and perhaps easy-to-catch animals such as small lizards. Much research has focused on a comparison between the South African species A. africanus and Paranthropus robustus. Early analyses of dental microwear in these two species showed, compared to P. robustus, A. africanus had fewer microwear features and more scratches as opposed to pits on its molar wear facets. It is debated whether Australopithecus is ancestral to Homo and modern humans. The fossil record seems to indicate that Australopithecus is ancestral to Homo and modern humans.Stone Tool Production by Australopithecus: Evidence and Specimens
- The Australopithecus hand had the anatomical capability to produce stone tools.
- A. garhi was connected with large mammal bones that showed signs of processing by stone tools, indicating australopithecine tool production.
- Stone tools were discovered at the nearby Gona and Ledi-Geraru sites, dating to around the same time as A. garhi (about 2.6 mya).
- The discovery of Homo at Ledi-Geraru (LD 350-1) casts doubt on australopithecine authorship of the stone tools.
- Cut marks dating back to 3.4 mya were found on a bovid leg at the Dikaka site in 2010, initially attributed to A. afarensis butchery.
- Attribution to butchery is questionable due to the fossil's origin from a sandstone unit and modification by abrasive sand and gravel particles during fossilization.
- The Lomekwi culture, dating back to 3.3 mya, was discovered at Lake Turkana in 2015, potentially attributable to Kenyanthropus or A. deyiremeda.
- Notable specimens of Australopithecus include Lucy (A. afarensis), Taung Child (A. africanus), and Little Foot (A. prometheus).
- The discovery of A. sediba in 2008 has challenged the traditional view of the human family tree.
- A. sediba has been suggested as a potential ancestor of Homo.
- The debate surrounding the classification of the Taung Child as a separate species (A. africanus) or a subspecies of A. africanus (A. africanus africanus) continues.
- The discovery of a nearly complete skull of A. anamensis in 2016 has shed light on the earliest known member of the genus Australopithecus.
Test your knowledge of Australopithecus with our quiz! From the earliest known member of the genus, A. anamensis, to the more widely dispersed A. africanus and A. sediba, this quiz covers the key species, notable specimens, and debates surrounding the classification of these early hominins. Explore the evidence and specimens of stone tool production by Australopithecus, and find out whether they are ancestral to Homo and modern humans. Challenge yourself with this fascinating quiz
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