This vegetarian apeman had a big, flat face with a massive jaw. It lived at a time when forests were vanishing from East Africa, creating a shortage of food such as soft fruit.

Paranthropus boisei coped with the shortage by evolving a massive jaw and huge teeth to chomp tough-to-chew foods such as nuts, roots, seeds and tubers.

These hard, gritty foods were more abundant in the open woodland and grasslands that boisei called home.

Paranthropus boisei may have lived in groups organized in harems, in which one male mated with many females. Males were easy to spot amongst a harem of females; they were much more muscular with much bigger faces.

Hibilis Similiarities

Homo rudolfensis was originally thought to have been a representative of the species Homo habilis, apparently vindicating Louis Leakey's long-held belief that large-brained members of the genus Homo existed in eastern African millions of years ago. The specimens cranial capacity of 775cc, is well in excess of earlier australopith brain size. The fossil was shown to Louis only several days before his death. But Richard Leakey, leader of the expedition which uncovered the skull, refused to firmly place ER 1470 into a species, listing it only as "Homo sp." or "genus Homo, but species indeterminate."

The ratios of different types of carbon atoms, or isotopes, in fossils can tell us lots about what a fossil creature ate because different foods have different carbon isotope signatures. Dr Julia Lee-Thorp of the University of Cape Town in South Africa has found that isotopes in boisei's southern African relative, Paranthropus robustus, show that it ate a relatively high proportion of foods with a Carbon-4 (C4) signature.


On 24 November 1974 in the Afar region of Ethiopia, anthropologists Donald. Johanson and Tom Gray made one of the most famous fossil discoveries ever.

While out fossil hunting in sandy ravines near the River Awash, they discovered a 40% complete skeleton dating to 3.2 million years ago. They named the find 'Lucy'. Lucy's species, Australopithecus afarensis, have small canine teeth compared with apes. This suggests males may have been cooperating.

Examinations of Lucy's knee joint and pelvis demonstrate that she walked upright. And footprints left in volcanic tuff at Laetoli in Tanzania by afarensis suggest it walked with a human-like stride.