Go to Essential Fossils index.
Go to site main page.
Open Fossils Glossary, Charts.
Content created 2010-10-05
File last modified:
Go back to Very Early Hominids.
Go ahead to Au. africanus.

Australopithecus afarensis

Most Famous Specimens:
“Lucy” (3.18 mya), “Kenyanthropus” (Kenya), Selam Child (Ethiopia).
East and Northeast Africa, especially Ethiopia and Tanzania.
Most Famous Sites:
Laetoli (Tanzania), Hadar (Ethiopia), Selam (Ethiopia), Omo, East Turkana (Kenya), possibly Baringo (Kenya).
Time Range:
Approximately 4-3 mya.
Between 30 and 65 kg. (This may rrepresent one very variable species, a great deal of sexual dimorphism, or possibly two or more species or varieties.
Cranial Capacity:
380 to 450 cc.
Cranial Features:
Face some similar to modern chimps. Large thick-enameled molars and premolars, large incisors (front teeth). Canine teeth are shaped more like incisors than like the large, pointed canines found in most modern apes, but are more apelike than the canines of later hominid species.
Postcranial Features:
Long arms and probably short legs relative to modern humans, pelvic and leg characteristics which indicate good adaptation to bipedalism, curved fingers and toes (indicating extensive use of trees?).
Associated with woodland through savannah habitats.
Special Notes:
These specimens are famed in part for providing the clearest and most detailed evidence of very early bipedalism, although it is very probable that some earlier hominids were also partly or largely bipedal. The excellent fossil material and the discovery of footprints at the site of Laetoli in Tanzania permitted closer study of bipedalism in Au. afarensis than for in earlier form.
A hyoid bone (which floats between the larynx and the lower jaw and anchors the tongue) from the Salem specimen looks more chimp-like than human-like, pretty much eliminating the possibility of language. Hyoids, like other small bones, are almost never preserved, so comparisons cannot be made with other fossil forms.
Wikipedia link

Lucy Skeleton As Usually Displayed


Slightly Restored Skeleton of Lucy
(Hunterian Museum, Glasgow)


Waxwork of Lucy, Looking Puzzled
(Museum of Man, San Diego)


The Famous Laetoli Footprints

Return to top.