Temporal range: Pliocene - Pleistocene 3.9–1.2Ma
Gregory & Hellman, 1939
The term australopithecine refers generally to any species in the related genera of Australopithecus and Paranthropus. It may also include members of Kenyanthropus, Ardipithecus, and Praeanthropus. The term comes from a former classification as members of a distinct subfamily, the Australopithecinae. They are now classified by some within the Australopithecina subtribe of the Hominini tribe. Members of Australopithecus are sometimes referred to as the "gracile australopithecines", while Paranthropus are called the "robust australopithecines".
The australopithecines occurred in the Plio-Pleistocene era, and were bipedal and dentally similar to humans, but with a brain size not much larger than that of modern apes, with lesser encephalization than in the genus Homo. Humans (genus Homo) may have descended from australopithecine ancestors, while the genus Ardipithecus is a possible ancestor of the australopithecines.
Phylogeny of subtribe Australopithecina according to Briggs & Crowther 2008, p. 124.
Australopithecines are adapted to bipedal locomotion, they have a high brachial index (forearm/upper arm ratio) when compared to other hominids, and they exhibit greater sexual dimorphism than members of Homo or Pan but less so than Gorilla or Pongo. It is thought that they averaged heights of 1.2–1.5 metres (3.9–4.9 ft) and weighed between 30 and 55 kilograms (66 and 121 lb). The brain size may have been 350 cc to 600 cc. The postcanines (the teeth behind the canines) were relatively large, and had more enamel compared to contemporary apes and humans, while the incisors and canines were relatively small, and there was little difference between the males' and females' canines compared to modern apes.
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