Australopithecus: characteristic, anatomical features, evolution

Mankind has always wondered about itsorigin, because it is so arranged Homo sapiens. He needs to understand everything, to comprehend and, passing through the prism of his own worldview, to give a reasonable explanation to any phenomenon or fact. Modern science points to Australopithecus as one of our distant ancestors. This topic is relevant and causes a lot of various disputes, generating all new hypotheses. It is necessary to make a short digression into the history and trace the evolution of australopithecines in order to understand what is common and different in this group of hominids with a modern man.

Australopithecus characteristic

Adaptation to the upright

Science gives a rather interesting descriptionaustralopithecines. On the one hand, she considers them a bipedal monkey, but very highly organized. And on the other, he calls them the primitive ancestors of man, but with a monkey's head. The australopithecus skulls found during excavations differ little from modern gorillas or chimpanzees. On the basis of scientific research it was established that the brain of Australopithecus was primitive and in its volume did not exceed 550 cm3. The jaws were quite large in size and well developed chewing muscles. Teeth looked more massive, but in their structure already resembled the teeth of modern people.

The most heated debates in the scientific community arequestions of the ascension of Australopithecus. The structure of his body, determined on the basis of the remains and traces found in volcanic ash, has been determined quite fully. It is possible to say with a high degree of probability that when walking, the hip joint of the Australopithecus did not fully unbend, but the feet were crossed. But the heel of his was well formed, there was a pronounced arch of the foot and thumb. These anatomical features of Australopithecus in the structure of the heel and foot make us similar.

Until the end, it is not known what prompted Australopithecusgo to a straight gait. Various versions are called, but, basically, they boil down to the fact that moving to their direct gait prompted the need to use their front paws more and more often, for example, to take cubs, food, etc. Another interesting hypothesis was put forward that the uprightness of "southern monkeys" is a consequence of their adaptation in conditions of permanent presence in shallow water. Shallow water gave them abundant food. In favor of this version, as an argument, for some reason the ability of people to hold their breath spontaneously.

As an explanation of the question of the uprightThe version is also proposed that the uprightness is one of the necessary elements for better adaptability to life on trees. But a more reliable version is climate change, which, according to scientists, occurred about 11 million years ago. At that time, the number of forests fell sharply and there was a lot of open space. This condition and served as a trigger, spurred the monkeys, the ancestors of Australopithecus, to master the land.

australopithecus instruments of labor

Growth and size

It can not be said that this group of hominidswas large in size. Their growth did not exceed 150 cm, with a weight of 25 kg to 50 kg. But here there is one interesting feature: in size, the males of Australopithecus were very different from females. They were hardly more than half full. This also played a role in the behavioral and reproduction characteristics. If we talk about hair, scientists believe that they began to lose their fur when they left the forest. Australopithecines began to lead a more active lifestyle and the wool under such conditions only hampered. Sweating in modern humans is a protective mechanism of the body from overheating and, in a way, compensation for the loss of a natural "coat" by our ancestors.

It is necessary to touch upon the themes of procreation - an importantcharacteristic of Australopithecus, allowing this species not only to survive, but also to evolve. Moving to a less energy-consuming mode of movement - a straight gait, the australopitheca pelvis became like a human. But there was a gradual evolution. More and more children began to appear with large heads. This is due primarily to the fact that the conditions of life have changed and required more organization and mastery of primitive tools of labor.

Australopithecus food

The main groups of australopithecines

Where and when did Australopithecus live? It is called the different dating of the appearance of Australopithecus on our Earth. The figures are called from 7 million years BC - up to 4 million years BC. But the earliest remains of human-like creatures anthropologists date back to 6 million BC. e. They stumbled upon the remains of the earliest Australopithecus in the Republic of Chad. The area of ​​their settlement covers not only the entire center of the African continent, but reaches the northern part. Their skeletons are also found in the east. That is, they felt great in the jungle and in the shroud. The main condition for their dwelling was the presence of water nearby.

Modern anthropology distinguishes three of their types, distinguishing not only the anatomical features of Australopithecus, but also a different dating.

  1. Australopithecus anaman. This is the earliest form of humanoid hominids. Presumably lived 6 million years ago.
  2. Australopithecus African. Presented by the sensational skeleton of a female Australopithecus. A wide audience he is known as Lucy. Her death was clearly violent in nature. Its remains are dated about 2 million years BC.
  3. Australopithecus sediba. This is the largest representative of these primates. The approximate time of its existence is heard in the range from 2.5 to 1 million years BC.

australopithecus lifestyle

Evolution and change in the behavior of Australopithecines

Australopithecus felt equally well,both on the ground and on the tree. As night fell, he climbed the tree for safety, even living on the ground. In addition, the trees gave him food. Therefore, he tried not to go away from them. The lifestyle of australopithecines has changed. Changes have affected not only his manner of travel, but also ways to get food. The need to lead a predominantly day-time lifestyle changed their vision. The need for guidance at night fell off, but as compensation appeared color vision. The ability to distinguish colors made it possible to unerringly search for ripe fruits, but they were not the main food of Australopithecus. Many scientists attribute the development of the brain to the appearance of a sufficient amount of protein in his diet. Where could he get it? Perhaps hunting for smaller animals. Although it is believed that the remnants of feasting of other larger predators were the main food of Australopithecus.

Diversity in nutrition is the basis for changing behavior

In those days, large predators werefamily of cats: saber-toothed and lions. They could not be seen, so the need to adapt was not just about an individual, but of the whole group. And this, in turn, inevitably forced to improve the interaction between all members. Only thanks to organized actions it was possible to compete with other scavengers, and also to be warned in case of danger. Even then, hyenas lived, the main competitor of australopithecines to the remains of food. It's difficult to fight with them in open battle, so it was necessary to get to the place of feasting earlier.

Variety in modes of movement (on land andtrees) and gave a variety in obtaining the necessary food. This is an important point. Scientists studying the locations of the attachment of muscles to the structure of the teeth, jaws, and also the skull, carrying out isotope analysis of bones and the ratio of trace elements in them, came to the conclusion about the omnivorousness of these hominids. An individual was found in the australopithecines - sediba, which even eaten bark of trees, and this is not characteristic of any primates. The assortment of "dishes" also relates Australopithecus with a modern person, because people are also omnivores. It is believed that this ability was laid in us at an early stage of evolution. Australopithecus could not prepare food for future use, so they needed to lead a nomadic lifestyle in the constant search for food.

Anatomical features of Australopithecus


There is evidence that toolsaustralopithec already knew how to use. These were bones, stones, sticks. Modern primates, and not only, also use improvised means to achieve various purposes: they get food, climb up, etc. This, of course, does not make them highly organized beings. They just use what they have in this situation. Instruments of labor Australopithecus also did not produce. He by behavior and habits differed little from his relatives - monkeys. If he used stones, then for throwing or splitting bones.

New skills - the basis for survival in the wild

Variety of food, obtained throughvertical gait, the use of primitive tools and the organization of the group - this is not all skills. To answer the questions: what australopithecies could do, which allowed them to adapt and continue the path of evolution, it is necessary to pay close attention to the upper extremities of these hominids. The main characteristic of Australopithecus gracile was that this distant ancestor of man, having lost most of the basic monkey features, was already a purebred straight erect. And this gave him some advantages. For example, he could carry a load for a short distance. Moving in the daytime, they could more likely avoid meeting hyenas that are predominantly nocturnal. It is argued that, thanks to their upright walking, Australopithecines had the advantage of finding food in front of hyenas, since they covered a larger distance in a shorter period of time, but this is a rather controversial point of view.

Australopithecus Cro-Magnon

Did Australopithecus have sign language?

On the question of the interaction within the herd, inIn particular, whether the members of the group, even the primitive sign language, scientists can not unequivocally answer. Although, when observing primates, you can at first glance notice how pronounced their facial expressions are. Yes, and the language of gestures they are trained. Therefore, it is impossible to exclude such an opportunity that the distant ancestors of man had the opportunity to transmit information not only with cries, but also with gestures and facial expressions. The life of Australopithecus differed little from the monkey, but the developed thumb, helping not only to successfully grasp objects, direct gait, freed hands - all these factors together and could serve as a stimulus for the development of sign language in their environment. There is a high probability that such a language was owned by a Neanderthal man. Australopithecus, presumably, also.

There was one more feature that distinguished them fromall other hominids - a way of copulation. They did this face to face, peering at the mimicry of a partner. And we should not forget about the extrasound communication methods within the collective (gestures, postures, facial expressions). These are all ways of conveying information, the ability to express emotions and attitudes (fear, threat, submission, satisfaction, etc.).

Relationship within the herd: close dependence on each other

Perhaps the most striking featureAustralopithecus is a relationship with each other. If you take as an example a flock of baboons, you can notice a strict hierarchy, where all obey the alpha male. In the case of australopithecines, this is apparently not observed. But this does not mean that everyone was left to himself. There was a kind of redistribution of roles. The main burden for the extraction of food was shifted to males. The females with the cubs were too vulnerable. The baby, being born, was practically helpless, and this required extra attention and time from the mother. To ensure that the young man himself learned to walk independently and somehow interact in the pack, the months did not go away, but the years.

Famous and relatively well preservedThe remains of Lucy indirectly indicate close ties within the pack. It is assumed that this "family" consisted of 13 individuals. There were adults and cubs. They died all together as a result of the flood and, apparently, experienced affection for each other.

Collective hunting, finding a safe place forlodging, transfer of food to a safe place - everything that Australopithecus knew, required coherence, communication and the inevitable development of a sense of elbow. Under such conditions, it was only possible to trust members of their own flock. The rest of the world was hostile.


These are already early representatives of modern people,which according to the structure of the bones of the skeleton and skull from us practically do not differ in any way. As evidenced by archaeological finds, they lived in the Upper Paleolithic, that is, only about 10 thousand years ago. Between them and Australopithecus, Pithecanthropus existed for a while, then Neanderthals. Each of these species of "procheloveka" had some progressive anatomical features that promoted them all higher in the evolutionary ladder. We see that the hominoid australopithecus became a Cro-Magnon man must have passed several million years.

Neanderthal Australopithecus

Alternative viewpoints of the theory of evolution

Recently, more and more oftenMistrust to the theory of Darwin's evolution of the origin of man from the monkey. Here it is not even that the supporters of creationism, believing that God created man in the image and likeness of his own from clay, do not consider monkeys as their ancestors. Supporters of the theory of evolution too often discredited themselves and their theory, doing a banal forgery, trying to give out what is desired for the real. Yes, and the emergence of new data forces once again to reconsider the theory of the origin of man. However, everything in order.

In 1912, Charles Dawson made "stunning"a find (several bones and a skull), which "proved" the victory of the theory of evolution. True, there was one doubting dentist who claimed that the teeth of a primitive man were slightly filed with modern tools, but who would listen to such a dirty lie? And "Piltdown Man" took an honorable place in the textbooks on biology. That, it would seem, is all: finally, an intermediate link between man and monkey has been found. But in 1953, Kenneth Oakley, Joseph Weiner and Le Gross Clark grieved the public, and at the same time the House of Commons of Great Britain. The joint work of representatives of the British University, which included a geologist, anthropologist and professor of anatomy, established a blatant fact of forgery. A fluorine test was developed. He also revealed that the human skull, the monkey's jaw and other bones were treated with hrompic. This method and gave the necessary "ancient look". But even after such a sensation you can still see the image of "Piltdown man in textbooks.

This is not the only hoax. There were others. The American Museum of the History of Nature and its best representatives Henry Fairfield Osborne and Harold Cook in Nebraska discovered the root tooth of a semi-human half-lion. Advertising is the engine of progress. This discovery, which was trumpeted by "the best and most independent American press", was enough not only to draw a supposed portrait of a distant ancestor of man, but even win a court from creationists and others who disagreed with "a real breakthrough in the evolution and history of the origin of man" . Then it was announced that it was a mistake. The tooth belongs to the extinct breed of a pig. And then the "extinct" breed was found in Paraguay. Local pigs did not even realize that for a long time they were in the center of attention of the progressive world scientific community. And such funny embarrassments can be listed further.

the brain of Australopithecus

Babies in the evolutionary struggle of species in australopithecines

Often not far from the remains of our allegedancestors find skulls of defeated baboons. It turns out that the australopithecines of the instruments of labor were used not only for splitting nuts, but also for hunting their own kind. Here again there are inexplicable questions. Did our ancestors descended from the tree, mastered the direct gait and better organization of their herd, on the basis of a more advanced communicative ability, but ultimately lost to the baboons who had already reached the peak of their evolutionary development. After all, these primates are alive to this day, and Australopithecus exists only in the form of fossil remains. This fact also raises many questions from the category: "why and how is this possible?". Years went by - the Cro-Magnons appeared. Australopithecus was found later much later to tell its amazing story.

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