The alpha taxonomy of Australopithecus at Sterkfontein: The postcranial evidence

Frederick E. GRINE

en Comptes Rendus Palevol 18 (3) - Pages 335-352

Published on 31 May 2019

The possibility that the fossils attributed to Australopithecus africanus represent more than a single species is of significance because of the pivotal role that A. africanus has played in discussions about hominin evolution. The A. africanus hypodigm that is currently widely recognized evinces considerable variation in a number of craniodental characters, and this has led to speculation that more than one australopith taxon may be represented among the specimens from Sterkfontein. Although crania, mandibles and teeth have dominated these taxonomic discussions, the Sterkfontein postcranial remains also have been invoked. While several workers have proposed that some of the craniodental remains from Sterkfontein can be partitioned into two groups, there is a notable lack of agreement among them as to their actual sorting. Most of the craniodental observations that have been put forward in support of arguments for taxonomic heterogeneity of the Sterkfontein australopith assemblage have been subjective and anecdotal in nature. So too, the postcranial evidence that has been cited in support of more than one australopith species at Sterkfontein has been largely subjective, and limited to a small number of elements. The results of quantitative statistical analyses of the craniodental and postcranial fossils that have been undertaken to date are not necessarily consistent with the hypothesis of taxonomic heterogeneity.


Silberberg Grotto, Jacovec Cavern, species, morphology, variation, sexual dimorphism

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