南猿屬

南猿屬(Australopithecus)

已滅絕的一屬人類,從上新世(約始於530萬年前)早期到更新世(約180萬年前)之初居住於非洲地區。大部分古人類學家相信南猿屬是現代人類的祖先。南猿與早期類人猿的區別在於體態直立和靠雙腳行走。他們的腦容量相當小,與現存類人猿差距不大,但他們的牙齒比較接近人類。人類學家依體型把南猿區分為二︰體型較小、較輕或所謂「纖細」型的阿法南猿(A. afarensis,375萬年前)和非洲南猿(A. africanus,200~300萬年前);演化後較重、較「粗壯」型的粗壯南猿(A. robustus,100~200萬年前)和鮑氏南猿(A. boisei,175萬年前)。一般認為,粗壯南猿和鮑氏南猿從纖細型人種演化而來,最後因無演化的後繼者而滅絕。我們不清楚哪種纖細型南猿使人屬興起,雖然證據顯示是阿法南猿。亦請參閱Hadar remains、human evolution、Lucy、Olduvai Gorge、Sterkfontein。

English version:

Australopithecus

(“southern ape”) Genus of extinct hominids that lived in southern and eastern Africa from the early Pliocene Epoch (beginning c. 5.3 million years ago) to the beginning of the Pleistocene (c. 1.8 million years ago). It is believed to be ancestral to modern human beings. The australopithecines were distinguished from the apes by their upright posture and bipedal gait. Their brains were small,not very different from those of living apes,but their teeth were more human than apelike. Three species of gracile australopithecines,A. anamensis (4.2 million years ago),A. afarensis (3.75 million years ago) and A. africanus (3 million-2 million years ago),and two species of robust australopithecines,A. robustus (2 million-1 million years ago) and A. boisei (1.75 million years ago),have been identified. Both robust species apparently evolved from the gracile species and eventually became extinct without evolutionary successors. It is not known which gracile species gave rise to the genus Homo,though the evidence suggests it was the earlier A. afarensis. See also Hadar remains,human evolution,Laetoli footprints,Lucy,Olduvai Gorge,Sterkfontein.

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