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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a group of higher primates whose bones were first excavated in the Kalahari Desert (South Africa) in 1924 and later in East and Central Africa. Primates close to the australopithecines lived in South, Southeast, and Southwest Asia.

The australopithecines lived at the beginning of the Quaternary (2,600,000 years ago) as biped land primates. They resembled man through the weak development of the jawbones, the absence of protuberant fangs, a prehensile hand with a developed thumb, and an ability to stand erect. The brain was relatively large (500–600 cubic meters), but differed little in structure from the brain of the present-day humanoid apes. The australopithecines were omnivorous; they used animal bones, sticks, and stones for defense and for attack, and it is possible that the most developed types could make rudimentary implements from them.

Some scholars include the australopithecines in the hominid family; others consider them a separate family. There were two species among the African australopithecines: Paranthropus and Australopithecus proper. Most scholars do not think that australopithecines were the ancestors of man but view them as a side line in the evolution of higher primates.


Iakimov, V. P. “Avstralopitekovye.” In Iskopaemye gominidy i proiskhozhdenie cheloveka. Moscow, 1966.
Robinson, J. T. “The Origin and Adaptive Radiation of the Australo-Pithecines.” In Evolution and Hominisation. Stuttgart, 1962.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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