Title

Asa Issie, Aramis and the origin of Australopithecus

Publication Title

Nature

Publication Date

4-13-2006

Document Type

Article

DOI

10.1038/nature04629

Keywords

Asa Issie, Aramis, Australopithecus

Disciplines

Anthropology

Abstract

The origin of Australopithecus, the genus widely interpreted as ancestral to Homo, is a central problem in human evolutionary studies. Australopithecus species differ markedly from extant African apes and candidate ancestral hominids such asArdipithecus, Orrorin and Sahelanthropus. The earliest describedAustralopithecus species is Au. anamensis, the probable chronospecies ancestor of Au. afarensis. Here we describe newly discovered fossils from the Middle Awash study area that extend the known Au. anamensis range into northeastern Ethiopia. The new fossils are from chronometrically controlled stratigraphic sequences and date to about 4.1–4.2 million years ago. They include diagnostic craniodental remains, the largest hominid canine yet recovered, and the earliest Australopithecus femur. These new fossils are sampled from a woodland context. Temporal and anatomical intermediacy between Ar. ramidus and Au. afarensissuggest a relatively rapid shift from Ardipithecus toAustralopithecus in this region of Africa, involving either replacement or accelerated phyletic evolution.