Late Australopiths and the Emergence of Homo Book uri icon


  • New fossil discoveries and new analyses increasingly blur the lines between Australopithecus and Homo, changing scientific ideas about the transition between the two genera. The concept of the genus itself remains an unsettled issue, though recent fossil discoveries and theoretical advances, alongside developments in phylogenetic reconstruction and hypothesis testing, are helping us approach a resolution. A review of the latest discoveries and research reveals that (a) despite the recent recovery of key fossil specimens, the antiquity of the genus Homo remains uncertain; (b) although there exist several australopith candidate ancestors for the genus Homo, there is little consensus about which of these, if any, represents the actual ancestor; and (c) potential convergent evolution (homoplasy) in adaptively significant features in late australopiths and basal members of the Homo clade, combined with probable reticulate evolution, makes it currently impossible to identify the direct ancestor of Homo erectus.

altmetric score

  • 17.684

author list (cited authors)

  • de Ruiter, D. J., Churchill, S. E., Hawks, J., & Berger, L. R.

citation count

  • 11

complete list of authors

  • de Ruiter, Darryl J||Churchill, SE||Hawks, J||Berger, LR

publication date

  • October 2017