Flashcards for Early Hominin Evolution
Topic 1:  Discovery of Early Hominins
(17 cards)

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The biological tribe that includes all australopithecines and humans. These are all human-like, bipedal animals.

Hominini (hominins)

The English scientist who speculated in an 1871 publication that fossils of the earliest humans and their primate ancestors ultimately would be found somewhere in Africa. He based this on the fact that the natural range of our nearest living relatives, chimpanzees and gorillas, is limited to Africa. He concluded that we ultimately must have shared a common ancestor with those apes in Africa.

Charles Darwin

A limestone cave in South Africa where, in 1924, the first known australopithecine discovery was made.


The Australian anatomy professor at the University of Witerwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, who obtained a fossil skull that had been blasted out of a nearby limestone quarry at Taung. In 1925 he classified it as Australopithecus africanus. Because of its small size, he called it the "Taung baby." In fact, it was a child of 3-4 years old.

Raymond Dart

A ridge of bone projecting vertically, from front to back, along the top midline of the skull. It serves as a muscle attachment area for the muscles that extend up both sides of the head from the jaw. The presence of this ridge of bone indicates that there are exceptionally strong jaw muscles.

sagittal crest

The medical doctor and enthusiastic amateur paleontologist from Scotland who found the first known adult Australopithecus africanus while excavating in Sterkfontein cave in 1936. In 1938, he discovered more fossil remains of africanus and other early hominins in Kromdraai cave. Some of these fossils were larger boned and more muscular with powerful jaws. He named them Paranthropus robustus.  It is now generally called Australopithecus robustus.

Robert Broom

A small eroded valley in Tanzania where Louis and Mary Leakey found the first known East African early hominin in 1959.

Olduvai Gorge

The genus name of an early hominin that literally means “southern ape.”


The genus name given to an early hominin that literally means “parallel to man.”  It is now generally considered to be a robust australopithecine. 


The early hominins that had a prominent sagittal crest.

robust australopithecines

The genus and species of the super robust australopithecines found in 1959 at Olduvai Gorge by Louis and Mary Leakey.  He originally classified this fossil into a new genus, Zinjanthropus (East African man), but later agreed that it belonged to an already known genus of early hominins.

Australopithecus boisei

The genus and species of the very early australopithecine found by Donald Johanson in 1974 at the Hadar site in the Afar Desert region of Northern Ethiopia. It was a 40% complete skeleton of an adult female whom they named Lucy. She lived 3.2-3.18 million years ago.

Australopithecus afarensis

The unusual kind of evidence of Australopithecus afarensis found at the Laetoli site about 30 miles south of Olduvai Gorge in Northern Tanzania. It was found in 1978 by Mary Leakey and Tim White.

footprints of 3 bipedal hominins walking in a now hardened volcanic ash layer

The name of the earliest known robust australopithecine species. The fossil skull for which this species was named was found in 1985 on the western side of Lake Turkana in northern Kenya. It is a nearly complete robust skull with an unusually large sagittal crest. Manganese in the soil deposit where it was located stained it black. As a result, this unusual fossil has become known as the "black skull."

Australopithecus aethiopicus

The name of the earliest known australopithecine species. The fossil for which this species was named was found In 1995 by Meave Leakey southwest of Lake Turkana. The species was named after the word for "lake" in the Turkana language.

Australopithecus anamensis

The name of the species that may have been the immediate ancestor of the australopithecines. The fossils for which this species was named was found in Northern Ethiopia by Tim White and his colleagues in the 1990’s. They date to about 5.8-5.2 million years ago and may represent the first stage in the evolution of bipedalism.

Ardipithecus ramidus

The name of a 2.5 million year old species of early hominin found in Ethiopia in 1996 by Berhane Asfaw and Tim White.  This species had anatomical similarities to Australopithecus afarensis but lived much later, during the time of Australopithecus africanus.

Australopithecus garhi