Fact Files: Australopithecus afarensis: (oss-trah-lo-PITH-i-kus afa-REN-sis)

Meaning: 'Southern Ape of Afar' after the Afar region of Ethiopia.

Lived: 3.9 - 3.0 million years ago.

Range: East Africa.

Diet: Soft fruit, nuts, seeds, tubers and bird eggs.

Size: M: 152cm / 45kg F: 107cm / 28 kg.

Brain Size: 35% the size of a modern brain.

'Lucy': a female Australopithecus afarensis
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Description | Evidence

Australopithecus afarensis walked upright like a human, but its body proportions were like those of a chimpanzee. Like chimps, afarensis had a small brain, long, dangly arms, short legs and a cone-shaped torso with a large belly.

Around 3.2 million years ago, this bipedal ape roamed a mixed habitat of savannah and woodland beside lakes and floodplains. It foraged for fruit, seeds and nuts and may even have eaten some meat.

Australopithecus afarensis probably climbed into trees to avoid sabre-toothed cats like Dinofelis and to sleep in safety at night.

This hominid seems to have lived in social groups of between 20 and 30. These groups were probably like those of chimpanzees, with dominance hierarchies in which each individual knows their place. Male afarensis probably cooperated to drive away predators. Once mature, females may have joined other troops of afarensis.

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