The Elements of Evolution (58) Australopithecus


Plant-eating baboons lived in close association with the australopithecines and probably helped form an effective early warning system against predators such as big cats, especially leopards. ~ English educator Douglas Palmer

Australopithecus (“Southern ape from the lake”) (4.2–1.8 MYA) is a relatively long-lived genus of hominids, with considerable species diversity. There were at least 8 distinct australopiths. All have been found in Africa.

Most australopiths dieted on fruit, grasses, sedges, vegetables, and tubers. That an australopith evolved into the first of the Homo genus is generally accepted.

In most mammals, females stay in their natal community, while males disperse after adolescence to avoid inbreeding. Among the apes, gorillas follow this pattern. In contrast, chimpanzees and early hominids practiced the opposite. For chimps and their close evolutionary descendants, including australopiths, cohesive male bonding required growing up together. For the sake of communally defending territory, post-adolescent females were forced to disperse to find new lives. Doubtlessly males did not mind taking them into their tribe.