Definition of Australopithecus in English:



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

    • ‘The researchers say adaptations for running stretch back more than two million years, allowing humans to evolve from our apelike ancestors Australopithecus.’
    • ‘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.’’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘In Australopithecus fossils, though, the muscle has a much more limited area of attachment.’
    • ‘Bramble adds that walking cannot explain the changes in body form that distinguish humans from Australopithecus.’


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