an extinct genus of small-brained,large-toothed bipedal hominids that lived in Africa between one and four million years ago.
1925, coined by Australian anthropologist Raymond A. Dart (1893-1988) from Latin australis “southern” (see Australia) + Greek pithekos “ape.” So called because first discovered in South Africa.
Australopithecus [(aw-stray-loh-pith-i-kuhs, aw-stray-loh-pi-thee-kuhs)]
An extinct genus of the hominid family that lived in Africa from about three to one million years ago. The name means “southern ape.”
Note: Members of this genus were the ancestors of modern humans. One of the best-known fossils, Lucy, was a member of this genus.
- Australopithecus afarensis
an extinct species of early hominid whose fossil remains were discovered in Ethiopia and have been dated at between 3.5 and 4 million years of age. a fossil belonging to this species.
- Australopithecus africanus
an extinct species of gracile hominid, formerly known as Plesianthropus transvaalensis, that lived in southern Africa about three million years ago. a fossil belonging to this species.
- Australopithecus boisei
an extinct species of very rugged, large-toothed bipedal hominid, formerly known as Zinjanthropus boisei, that lived in eastern Africa one to two million years ago. a fossil belonging to this species.
- Australopithecus robustus
an extinct species of large-toothed bipedal hominid that lived in southern Africa c1.5–2 million years ago: formerly classified as the genus Paranthropus. a fossil belonging to this species.