Genus Paranthropus (Formerly Australopithecus)
Australopithecines include two closely related genera (Australopithecus and Paranthropus). Australopithecines are distinguished by their very ape-like skull (though the teeth are more human-like than chimpanzee-like), small brain size (between 375 and 550cc), and knuckle-walking stance.
The claim that australopithecines, like Lucy, walked upright was largely based on the appearance of her leg and hip bone. However, australopithecines have long forearms and short hind legs. They also have curved fingers and long curved toes. Curved fingers and toes in extant primates are readily recognized as having no other purpose than full or part-time arboreal (tree-dwelling) life. The article of Mark Collard and Leislie Aiello in Nature Magazine reports "good evidence from Lucy's hand-bones that her species "knuckle-walked as chimps and gorillas still do today.[note 1] It should also be noted that bipedal walking is common among living gorillas and some chimpanzees. However, this mode is not truly bipedal, and is more accurately referred to as knuckle-walking. Living nonhuman primates and australopithecines are probably analogous in this regard, and therefore, neither can be considered any closer to humans than the other.
- Australopithecus afarensis is a southern ape from Ethiopia.
- Australopithecus africanus is a southern ape from Africa. Gracile form with smaller jaws and teeth.
- Australopithecus anamensis
- Australopithecus bahrelghazali
- Australopithecus garhi
- Paranthropus robustus is a southern ape, robust. More massive teeth and boney ridges (sagittal and supramastoid crests), formerly Australopithecus.
- Paranthropus boisei is a southern ape named after Charles Boise, Louis and Mary Leakey's financier. Formerly Zinjanthropus boisei (Zinj is ancient Arabic word for East Africa). Formerly Australopithecus.
- Paranthropus aethiopicus
Charles Oxnard, former director of graduate studies and professor of anatomy at the University of Southern California Medical School, who subjected australopithecine fossils to extensive computer analysis stated:
The australopithecines known over the last several decades from Olduvai and Sterkfontein, Kromdraai and Makapansgat, are now irrevocably removed from a place in a group any closer to humans than to African apes and certainly from any place in a direct human lineage. All this should make us wonder about the unusual presentation of human evolution in introductory textbooks, in encyclopedias and in popular publications. In such volumes not only are australopithecines described as being of known bodily size and shape, but as possessing such abilities as bipedality and tool-using and -making and such developments as the use of fire and specific social structures. Even facial features are happily (and non-scientifically reconstructed. (The Order of Man: A Biomathematical Anatomy of the Primates, p332.)
SECOND "APE MAN" OUT, ROGER LEWIN, Ed., Research News, Science, Richard and his parents, Louis and Mary, have held to a view of human origins for nearly half a century now that the line of true man, the line of Homo large brain, tool making and so on has a separate ancestry that goes back millions and millions of years. And the apeman, Australopithecus, has nothing to do with human ancestry." BONES OF CONTENTION, 1987, p.18
His Lordship's scorn for the level of competence he sees displayed by paleoanthropologists is legendary, exceeded only by the force of his dismissal of the australopithecines as having anything at all to do with human evolution. 'They are just bloody apes', he is reputed to have observed on examining the australopithecine remains in South Africa.. Zuckerman had become extremely powerful in British science, being an adviser to the government up to the highest level...,while at Oxford and then Birmingham universities, he had vigorously pursued a metrical and statistical approach to studying the anatomy of fossil hominids....it was on this basis that he underpinned his lifelong rejection of the australopithecines as human ancestors. (Roger Lewin, BONES OF CONTENTION, 1987, p.164, 165)
The australopithecine skull is in fact so overwhelmingly simian as opposed to human (figure 5) that the contrary proposition could be equated to an assertion that black is white." (Lord Solly Zuckerman, BEYOND THE IVORY TOWER, p.78)
...earlier finds, for instance, at Kanapoi...existed at least at the same time as, and probably even earlier than, the original gracile australopithecines... almost indistinguishable in shape from that of modern humans at four and a half million years... (CHARLES E. OXNARD Dean, Grad. School, Prof. Bio. and Anat., USC American Biology Teacher, Vol.41, 5/1979, p.274)
- Hominid fossils may shake up the human family tree Anthropologists say two Australopithecus sediba specimens have a curious mix of primitive and modern features that could indicate the species was a direct ancestor of modern humans. Los Angeles Times, September 08, 2011.
- New Hominid Species Not A Missing Link, Scientists Say Doubt over claims that we descended from new species and disagreement about how close a cousin it was. Inside Science News Service Apr 8, 2010.
- "Key" Human Ancestor Found: Fossils Link Apes, First Humans? Australopithecus sediba had human-like face and could walk well upright but was apelike in other ways. National Geographic News, April 8, 2010.
- Fossil Skeletons May Be Human Ancestor Newly discovered australopithecine discovered in a cave in Africa. LiveScience, April 8 2010.
- Man's earliest direct ancestors looked more apelike than previously believed "Dr. Leakey produced a biased reconstruction based on erroneous preconceived expectations of early human appearance that violated principles of craniofacial development." EurekAlert, March 24, 2007
- Earliest hominid: Not a hominid at all? The earliest known hominid fossil, which dates to about 7 million years ago, is actually some kind of ape, according to an international team of researchers led by the University of Michigan. The finding, they say, suggests scientists should rethink whether we actually descended from apes resembling chimpanzees, which are considered our closest relatives. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. June 19, 2006
- See also Richmond, Brian G.; Strait, David S. (March 23, 2000). "Evidence That Humans Evolved From a Knuckle-walking Ancestor". Nature 404 (6776): 382-385. ISSN 0028-0836.
- Australopithecus Wikipedia
- Australopithecus was fully ape, closer to chimp (Talk.Origins) Response to Talk.Origins
- Paleoanthropology quotes
- Intermediate fossils
- Evolution myths