The Spine of Australopithecus

Scott A. Williams, Marc R. Meyer

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    The early hominin (Ardipithecus and Australopithecus) fossil record contains over 100 preserved vertebral elements (n = 107; approximately half of which are well-preserved), ~65% of which have not been described since the turn of the millennium. Many are fragments, some for which detailed descriptions are pending (e.g., those of Australopithecus anamensis). Australopithecus afarensis and Australopithecus sediba are known from cervical, thoracic, and lumbar vertebrae, whereas Australopithecus africanus is known from thoracic and lumbar vertebrae but not cervical vertebrae. A partial skeleton from Member 4 of Sterkfontein, StW 573, preserves vertebrae from all presacral regions, but its species designation is debated and not yet formalized in the literature. Other early hominin species, such as Sahelanthropus tchadensis, Orrorin tugenensis, Ardipithecus kadabba, Australopithecus deyiremeda, Australopithecus bahrelghazali, and Australopithecus garhi, do not preserve vertebrae. Vertebrae from Swartkrans and Cooper’s Cave are thought to belong to either Paranthropus or Homo and are discussed in Meyer and Williams (this volume). The vertebrae discussed in this chapter are from five sites in East and South Africa: Aramis, Asa Issie, and Hadar from the Afar Depression of Ethiopia and Sterkfontein and Malapa in the Cradle of Humankind, South Africa.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Title of host publicationSpinal Evolution
    Subtitle of host publicationMorphology, Function, and Pathology of the Spine in Hominoid Evolution
    PublisherSpringer International Publishing
    Number of pages27
    ISBN (Electronic)9783030193492
    ISBN (Print)9783030193485
    StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


    • Australopithecus afarensis
    • Australopithecus africanus
    • Australopithecus sediba
    • Human evolution
    • Vertebral column

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
    • General Social Sciences
    • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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