Definition of Australopithecus in US English:



  • A fossil bipedal primate with both ape-like and human characteristics, found in Pliocene and Lower Pleistocene deposits (c.4 million to 1 million years old) in Africa.

    Genus Australopithecus, family Hominidae: several species, including the lightly built A. africanus, which is thought to be the immediate ancestor of the human genus Homo. The more heavily built forms (often placed in the genus Paranthropus), such as A. robustus and A. boisei, were probably evolutionary dead ends

    • ‘Dart, who along with Charles Darwin before him suspected that Africa, not Asia, was the cradle of humankind, named the fossil Australopithecus, or ‘southern ape.’’
    • ‘The researchers say adaptations for running stretch back more than two million years, allowing humans to evolve from our apelike ancestors Australopithecus.’
    • ‘Bipedalism - the ability to walk upright on two legs - evolved in the ape-like Australopithecus at least 4.5 million years ago while they also retained the ability to travel through the trees.’
    • ‘Although we don't know if it was a direct human ancestor, Australopithecus was certainly closely related to the animals we are descended from.’
    • ‘Bramble adds that walking cannot explain the changes in body form that distinguish humans from Australopithecus.’
    • ‘In Australopithecus fossils, though, the muscle has a much more limited area of attachment.’
    • ‘Scientists studied two species of early humans, Australopithecus africanus, which lived in southern Africa around three million years ago, and Paranthropus robustus, which inhabited the same area about a million years later.’
    • ‘She was dated at about 3.5 million years old and was a member of a prehuman genus called Australopithecus.’


Modern Latin, from Latin australis ‘southern’ (see austral) + Greek pithēkos ‘ape’.