Taxobox | name = Robust australopithecines
fossil_range = Pleistocene

image_width = 200px
image_caption = Skull of "Paranthropus boisei"
regnum = Animalia
phylum = Chordata
classis = Mammalia
ordo = Primates
familia = Hominidae
subfamilia = Homininae
tribus = Hominini
subtribus = Hominina
genus = "Paranthropus"
genus_authority = Broom, 1938
subdivision_ranks = Species
subdivision = †"Paranthropus aethiopicus"
†"Paranthropus boisei"
†"Paranthropus robustus"

The robust australopithecines, members of the extinct hominin genus "Paranthropus" (Greek para "beside", Greek anthropos "human"), were bipedal hominins that probably descended from the gracile australopithecine hominins ("Australopithecus").


All species of "Paranthropus" were bipedal, and many lived during a time when species of the genus "Homo" (which were possibly descended from "Australopithecus"), were prevalent. "Paranthropus" first appeared roughly 2.7 million years ago. Most species of "Paranthropus" had a brain about 40 percent of the size of modern man. There was some size variation between the different species of "Paranthropus", but most stood roughly 1.3-1.4 m (4.26 to 4.59 feet) tall and were quite well muscled. "Paranthropus" is thought to have lived in wooded areas rather than the grasslands of the "Australopithecus".

The behavior of "Paranthropus" was quite different from that of the genus "Homo", in that it was not as adaptable to its environment or as resourceful. Evidence of this exists in the form of its physiology which was specifically tailored to a diet of grubs and plants. This would have made it more reliant on favorable environmental conditions than members of the genus "Homo", such as "Homo habilis", which would eat a much wider variety of foods.

Disputed taxonomy

Opinions differ whether the species "P. aethiopicus, P. boisei" and "P. robustus" should be included within the genus "Australopithecus". The emergence of the robusts could be either a display of divergent or convergent evolution. There is currently no consensus in the scientific community whether "P. aethiopicus, P. boisei" and "P. robustus" should be placed into a distinct genus, "Paranthropus", which is believed to have developed from the ancestral "Australopithecus" line. Up until the last half-decade, the majority of the scientific community included all the species of both "Australopithecus" and "Paranthropus" in a single genus. Currently, both taxonomic systems are used and accepted in the scientific community. On Wikipedia, the genus "Paranthropus" is used for all articles which mention the species "P. aethiopicus, P. boisei" and "P. robustus".


For the most part the "Australopithecus" species "A. afarensis", "A. africanus", and "A. anamensis" either disappeared from the fossil record before the appearance of early humans or seem to have been the ancestors of "Homo habilis", yet "P. boisei" and "P. aethiopicus" continued to evolve along a separate path distinct and unrelated to early humans. "Paranthropus" shared the earth with some early examples of the "Homo" genus, such as "H. habilis", "H. ergaster", and possibly even "H. erectus". "Australopithecus afarensis" and "A. anamensis" had, for the most part, disappeared by this time. There were also significant morphological differences between "Australopithecus" and "Paranthropus", although the differences were found on the cranial remains. The postcranial remains were still very similar. "Paranthropus" was more massively built craniodentally and tended to sport gorilla-like sagittal crests on the cranium which anchored massive temporalis muscles of mastication.cite journal | author = Wood, B. & Strait, D. | year = 2004 | title = Patterns of resource use in early Homo and Paranthropus | journal = Journal of Human Evolution | volume = 46 | pages = 119–162 | doi = 10.1016/j.jhevol.2003.11.004 ]


Species of "Paranthropus" had smaller braincases than "Homo", yet they had significantly larger braincases than "Australopithecus". Paranthropus is associated with stone tools both in southern and eastern Africa, although there is considerable debate whether or not they were made and utilized by these robust australopithecines or contemporaneous Homo. Most believe that early Homo was the tool maker.cite book | author = Klein, R. | year = 1999 | title = The Human Career | publisher = University of Chicago Press] Most "Paranthropus" species seem almost certainly to have not used language or to have controlled fire, although they are directly associated with the latter at Swartkrans, South Africa.


A partial cranium and mandible of "Paranthropus robustus" was discovered in 1938 by a schoolboy, Gert Terblanche, at Kromdraai B (70 km south west of Pretoria) in South Africa. It was described as a new genus and species by Robert Broom of the Transvaal Museum. The site has been excavated since 1993 by Francis Thackeray of the Transvaal Museum. A date of at least 1.95 million years has been obtained for Kromdraai B. "Paranthropus boisei" was discovered by Mary Leakey on July 17, 1959, at the FLK Bed I site of Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania (specimen OH5). Mary was working alone, as Louis was ill in camp. She rushed back to camp and at the news Louis made a remarkable recovery. They refrained from excavating until Des Bartlett had photographed the site.

In his notes Louis recorded a first name, "Titanohomo mirabilis", reflecting an initial impression of close human affinity. Louis and Mary began to call it "Dear Boy". Recovery was halted on August 7. Dear Boy was in context with Olduwan tools and animal bones.

The fossil was published in "Nature" dated August 15, 1959, but due to a strike of the printers the issue was not released until September. In it Louis placed the fossil in Broom's Australopithecinae family, creating a new genus for it, "Zinjanthropus", species "boisei". "Zinj" is an ancient Arabic word for the coast of East Africa and "boisei" referred to Charles Boise, an anthropological benefactor of the Leakeys. Louis based his classification on twenty differences from Australopithecus.

Broom had died in 1951 but Dart was still living. He is said to have wept for joy on Louis' behalf on being personally shown Zinj, which Louis and Mary carried around in a tin (later a box). Louis had considered Broom's Paranthropus genus, but rejected it because he believed Zinj was in the "Homo" ancestral stock but Paranthropus was not. He relied heavily on the larger size of Zinj's canines.

At that time palaeoanthropology was in an overall mood to lump and was preaching against splitting. Consequently, the presentation of Zinj during the Fourth Pan-African Congress of Prehistorians in July in the then Belgian Congo, at which Louis was forced to read the delayed "Nature" article, nearly came to grief for Louis over the creation of a new genus. Dart rescued him with the now famous joke, "... what would have happened if Mrs. Ples had met Dear Boy one dark night."

The battle of the name raged on for many years and drove a wedge between Louis and LeGros Clark, Sir Wilfrid from 1955, who took the "Paranthropus" view. On the other hand it brought the Leakeys and Dr. Melville Bell Grosvenor of the National Geographic Society together. The Leakeys became international figures and had no trouble finding funds from then on. The Zinj question ultimately became part of the "Australopithecus"/"Paranthropus" question (which only applied to the robust Australopithecines).

ee also

* Cranial capacity


External links

* cite web
url =
title = Hominidae
work = Mikko's Phylogeny Archive

* cite web
url =
title = Early Human Phylogeny
publisher = Smithsonian Institution

* cite web
url =
title = Paranthropus
work = Human Evolution—A Look At Our Ancestors
publisher = Humboldt State University

* cite journal
url =
title = What Killed Paranthropus?
journal = New Scientist
issue = 2434
date = 2004-02-14
format = Abstract

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Paranthropus — Das Fossil KNM WT 17000 von Paranthropus aethiopicus (Nachbildung) Zeitraum Oberes Pliozän bis Pleistozän …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Paranthropus — Paranthropus …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Paranthropus — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda ? Paranthropus Reconstrucción de un Paranthropus boisei (Museo de Arqueología de Westfalia) …   Wikipedia Español

  • paranthropus — parànthropus m DEFINICIJA v. australopitek …   Hrvatski jezični portal

  • Paranthropus — Paranthropus …   Wikipédia en Français

  • paranthropus — /peuh ran threuh peuhs, par euhn throh /, n., pl. paranthropuses for 1. 1. (sometimes cap.) a member of the former genus Paranthropus. 2. (cap., italics) a former genus of fossil hominids whose members have now been assigned to the proposed… …   Universalium

  • Paranthropus — noun former classification for Australopithecus robustus • Syn: ↑genus Paranthropus • Hypernyms: ↑australopithecine …   Useful english dictionary

  • Paranthropus — …   Википедия

  • Paranthropus — ► ANTROPOLOGÍA Y PALEONTOLOGÍA Género de australopitécidos fósiles descubierto en África del Sur (Pleistoceno) …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Paranthropus — Par|ạn|thro|pus auch: Pa|rạnth|ro|pus 〈m.; , thro|pi〉 Angehöriger einer Gattung der Prähominiden [<grch. para „neben, bei“ + Anthropus] * * * Pa|r|ạn|th|ro|pus, der; , …pi [zu griech. pará = neben u. ánthrōpos = Mensch]: südafrikanischer… …   Universal-Lexikon

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