South African Fossil Anthropoids


A REPORT has just been published1 of the Fourth Summer Seminar in Physical Anthropology held in New York at the end of August 1949 under the auspices of the Viking Fund. The evolutionary significance of the South African fossil anthropoids (Australopithecinæ) was discussed at several of the meetings, and at one I gave a short account of some comparisons, made by the appropriate statistical methods, and in collaboration with my colleague, Mr. E. H. Ashton, between the dimensions of the teeth of the fossils and those of existing apes. The conclusions to which they point disagree with the claims of a number of workers2 that in their size and shape the fossil teeth are in general more hominid than anthropoid. Comparisons made dimension by dimension and index by index have revealed few significant differences from all three types of extant great ape. Thus, of seventy-five dental characters of Plesianthropus, only four differed from the gorilla and none from the orang; and of twenty-six of Australopithecus prometheus none differed from either the gorilla or orang-outang.

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  1. 1

    Kaplan, A. B., “Yearbook of Physical Anthropology, 1948”. (New York: Viking Fund, 1949.)

  2. 2

    Broom, R., and Schepers, G. W. H., “The South African Fossil Ape Men—The Australopithecinæ”. Pretoria: Trans. Mus. Mem., No. 2 (1946). Dart, R. A., Amer. J. Phys. Anthrop., N.S., 6, 391 (1948). Clark, W. E. Le Gros., Sci. Prog., 139, 377 (1947); J. Anat., Lond., 81, 300 (1947).

  3. 3

    Ashton, E. H., and Zuckerman, S., Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. (two papers, in the press, 1950).

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ZUCKERMAN, S. South African Fossil Anthropoids. Nature 165, 652 (1950) doi:10.1038/165652a0

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