definition of Wikipedia
Temporal range: Pliocene, 2.7–2.5 Ma
|Paranthropus aethiopicus skull ("Black Skull") replica|
Paranthropus aethiopicus or Australopithecus aethiopicus is an extinct species of hominid, one of the robust australopithecines. The finding discovered in 1985 by Alan Walker in West Turkana, Kenya, KNM WT 17000 (known as the "Black Skull" due to the dark coloration of the bone, caused by high levels of manganese), is one of the earliest examples of robust pliocene hominids.
The skull is dated to 2.5 million years ago, older than the later forms of robust australopithecines. Anthropologists suggest that P. aethiopicus lived between 2.7 and 2.5 million years ago. The features are quite primitive and share many traits with Australopithecus afarensis; thus P. aethiopicus is likely to be a direct descendant. With its face being as prognathic (projecting) as A. afarensis, its brain size was also quite small at 410 cc.
P. aethiopicus was first proposed in 1967 to describe a toothless partial mandible (Omo 18) found in Ethiopia by French paleontologists. Lower jaw and teeth fragments have been uncovered. P. aethiopicus had a large sagittal crest and zygomatic arch adapted for heavy chewing (as in gorilla skulls). Not much is known about this species since the best evidence comes from the "Black Skull" and the jaw. There is not enough material to make an assessment to how tall they were, but they may have been as tall as Australopithecus afarensis.
Not all anthropologists agree that P. aethiopicus gave rise to both Paranthropus boisei and Paranthropus robustus, since the skull more closely resembles that of A. afarensis. The one clue that makes P. aethiopicus a possible ancestor to both P. boisei and P. robustus is the similarity in jaw size. P. aethiopicus is known to have lived in mixed savanna and woodland. More evidence must be gathered about P. aethiopicus in order to accurately describe its physiology. The bizarre primitive shape of the "Black Skull" gives evidence that P. aethiopicus and the other australopithecines are on an evolutionary branch of the hominid tree, distinctly diverging from the Homo (human) lineage.
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