Characteristics of Australopithecus

Remains of Australopithecus were found at Taung in Botswana in 1924 by Raymond Dart, at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania by Mary Leakey in 1959 and throughout eastern Africa e.g. regions around Lake Natron in Tanzania, Lake Turkana in Kenya and Omo River valley in Ethiopia.

Characteristics of Australopithecus

  • He was the earliest most manlike hominid.
  • He had a pelvis and leg that were similar to modern men.
  • He was bipedal (walked on two limbs).
  • Could defend themselves.
  • Could attack their enemies.
  • Could see or sense impending danger from a distance.
  • Could grasp objects with ease.
  • May have been hairy, short and strong.

  • Had a large face and low forehead.
  • Had stereoscopic vision.
  • Had much larger teeth, skull and jaws.
  • His brain was smaller than modern man but larger than that of the most intelligent ape: the Gorilla.

Classifications/types of Australopithecus

Four different types of Australopithecus have been identified. These are:

  • Australopithecus Anamensis, whose four-million year old remains, were found at Kenapoi and Alliabay in the Lake Turkana region.

  • Australopithecus Afarensis, which was bipedal and small in stature. His four to three million year old remains were found at Laetoli in Tanzania and Tugen Hills in Baringo district: Kenya. The name Afarensis is derived from the Afar depression in Ethiopia.
  • Australopithecus Africanus (Gracilis), who lived between three to two and a half million years ago and was small, light, slender, and a metre and a half tall, with a small brain, but larger teeth, jaws, and skull.
  • Australopithecus Robustus, which was strongly built, with massive jaws and powerful teeth, weighed 68kg and was the biggest and most recent type of Australopithecus. He lived between two and one and a half million years ago in South Africa and was apparently vegetarian. He ate fruits, nuts and raw tubers. The Eastern African Australopithecus Robustus was named Australopithecus Boisei.