Australopithecus bahrelghazali

This species lived about 3 million years ago and is the first from the genus Australopithecus to be discovered outside of southern and eastern Africa.

Background to discovery

Age

3.5 to 3 million years old

Important fossil discoveries

Jaw and teeth remains were discovered in Bahr el Ghazal in Chad. The type specimen is an adult lower jaw, KT12/H1. These remains are the first from the genus Australopithecus to be discovered outside of southern and eastern Africa. This enlarges the known geographic range of these hominins.

What the name means

The genus name Australopithecus means ‘southern ape’. The species name is derived from the location that the fossils were found - Bahr el Ghazal in Chad.

Distribution

Central Chad in Africa

Relationships with other species

More finds are needed in order to ascertain where this species fits on the human family tree. Its relationship to other australopithecines is debated, but many scientists believe it may be closely related to A.afarensis, with whom it shares numerous characteristics. Others believe it is a sub-species of A.afarensis.

Key physical features

Brain

  • lack of cranial remains makes estimates difficult, but the similarities in jaw and teeth features to other australopithecines, suggest the brain would be in the same size range, 400-550 cubic centimetres, as other species in this genus.

Body size and shape

  • lack of skeletal remains makes estimates difficult. This species was probably similar in size to modern chimpanzees.

Jaws and teeth

  • large incisiform canines and molars
  • premolars with 3 roots (rather than 2)
  • tooth enamel of a similar thickness to Australopithecus afarensis
  • relatively vertical chin compared to other australopithecines (although it is still receding)

Lifestyle

Culture

There is no evidence for any specific cultural attributes but it may have behaved in a manner similar to other australopithecines living in Africa at the same time. It probably used simple tools that included sticks and other non-durable plant materials found in the immediate surroundings. Stones may also have been used as tools, but there is no evidence that stones were shaped or modified in any way. It seems likely that they lived in small social groups containing a mixture of males and females, children and adults.

Environment and diet

This species live in a lakeside environment surrounded by forests, wooded savannah and open grassy patches.

Little work has been done on reconstructing its diet in detail. However, it probably ate mostly plants and may have supplemented this with small amounts of meat.


Fran Dorey , Exhibition Project Coordinator
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