Pub. date: 2006 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412952453 | Print ISBN: 9780761930297 | Online ISBN: 9781412952453| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Kevin D. Hunt
Australopithecine is the informal adjective designating members of the taxonomic subfamily Australopithecinae, which with the Homininae constitute the family Hominidae. The Hominidae are humans, human ancestors and collateral species after the lineage branched from that leading to chimpanzees. Recently, paleontologists, influenced by evidence from genetics that apes and humans are more closely related than traditional taxonomy reflected, have pulled African apes into the Hominidae, with repercussions right down the taxonomic scale. Under the new scheme, gorillas are in the subfamily Gorillinae and chimpanzees and humans are in the Homininae. The Homininae is divided into two tribes, the Panini for chimpanzees and Hominini for our own lineage. Our tribe, the Hominini, is divided into two subtribes, the Australopithecina (less formally “australopiths”) and the Hominina, which contains only the genus Homo. Except for specialists, the new taxonomy hardly affects the australopithecines. There is but a single difference: “australopithecines” are now referred to ...