Ecological Morphology of Australopithecus afarensis

Traveling Terrestrially, Eating Arboreally
  • Kevin D. Hunt


Kinzey (1976, 1977, 1978) was quick to appreciate the utility of integrating systematic ecological research with study of positional behavior and morphology, a synthetic area of scholarly pursuit now distinguished by its own appellation, ecological morphology (Wainwright and Riley, 1994). Primatologists so often focus on food and food-gathering behaviors as keys to understanding primate anatomy because primate activity budgets are dominated by feeding. Across habitats ranging from thicket woodland to closed canopy forest, chimpanzees consistently dedicate half of their activity budget to feeding (Table 1). The next most common activity, “resting,” might as well be called “digesting.” As a simplifying first-assumption, an ecological perspective takes the view that the hominoid body is a food-getting machine, and ignores the presumably lesser selective roles played by intraspecific aggression and predator avoidance (though predation may be more important for smaller primates: van Schaik, 1983; van Schaik and van Hooff, 1983; van Schaik et al., 1983a, b; van Schaik and van Noordwijk, 1989). This view holds as significant the rarity of predation on hominoids (Cheney and Wrangham, 1986), and that intraspecific agonism is less a threat to survival than is starvation.


Large Male Terminal Branch Small Male Social Rank Early Hominid 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Abitbol M (1987) Evolution of the lumbosacral angle. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 72:361–372.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Berge C, and Kazmierczak J-B (1986) Effects of size and locomotor adaptations on the hominid pelvis: Evaluation of australopithecine bipedality with a new multivariate method. Folia Primatol. 46:185–204.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cheney DL, and Wrangham RW (1986) Predation. In BB Smuts, DL Cheney, RM Seyfarth, RW Wrangham, and TT Struhsaker (eds.): Primate Societies. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 227–239.Google Scholar
  4. Deloison Y (1991) Les Australopithèques marchaient-ils comme nous? In Y Coppens and B Senut, (eds.): Origine(s) de la Bipédie chez les Hominidés, Cah. Paléoanthrop. Paris: Editions du CNRS, pp. 177–186.Google Scholar
  5. Du Brul EL (1962) The general phenomenon of bipedalism. Am. Zool. 2:205–208.Google Scholar
  6. Fooden J (1964) Stomach contents and gastro-intestinal proportions in wild-shot Guinan monkeys. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 22:227–232.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Gantt DG (1983) The enamel of Neogene hominoids: Structural and phyletic implications. In RL Ciochon and RS Corruccini (eds.): New Interpretations of Ape and Human Ancestry. New York: Plenum Press, pp. 249–298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Ghiglieri MP (1984) The Chimpanzees of Kibale Forest. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Glander KE (1978) Howling monkey’s feeding behaviour and plant secondary compounds: A study of strategies. In GG Montgomery (ed.): The Ecology of Arboreal Folivores. Washington: Smithsonian Inst. Press, pp. 561–573.Google Scholar
  10. Grine FE, and Kay RF (1988) Early hominid diets from quantitative image analysis of dental microwear. Nature. 333:65–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hamilton AC (1982) Environmental History of East Africa: A Study of the Quaternary. London: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  12. Hladik A, and Hladik CM (1969) Rapports trophiques entre vegetation et primates dans la foret de Barro Colorado (Panama). Terre et Vie 23:25–117.Google Scholar
  13. Hunt KD (1989) Positional behavior in Pan troglodytes at the Mahale Mountains and Gombe Stream National Parks, Tanzania. Ph.D. Dissertation., University of Michigan.Google Scholar
  14. Hunt KD (1991a) Positional behavior in the Hominoidea. Int. J. Primatol. 12:95–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hunt KD (1991b) Mechanical implications of chimpanzee positional behaviour. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 86:521–536.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hunt KD (1992a) Positional behaviour ofPan troglodytes in the Mahale Mountains and Gombe Stream National Parks, Tanzania. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 87:83–107.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hunt KD (1992b) Social rank and body weight as determinants of positional behavior in Pan troglodytes. Primates 33:347–357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hunt KD (1994a) The evolution of human bipedality: Ecology and functional morphology. J. Hum. Evol. 26:183–202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hunt KD (1994b) Body size effects on vertical climbing among chimpanzees. Int. J. Primatol. 15:855–865.Google Scholar
  20. Hunt KD (1996) The postural feeding hypothesis: An ecological model for the evolution of bipedalism. S. Afr. J. Sci. 92:77–90.Google Scholar
  21. Hylander WL (1975) Incisor size and diet in anthropoids with special reference to Cercopithecidae. Science 189:1095–1098.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Johanson DC, and Edey M (1981) Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  23. Jolly CJ (1970) The seed-eaters: A new model of hominid differentiation based on a baboon analogy. Man. 5:1–26.Google Scholar
  24. Jolly CJ and Plog F (1987) Physical Anthropology and Archeology. New York: Knopf.Google Scholar
  25. Jungers WL (1982) Lucy’s limbs: Skeletal allometry and locomotion in Australopithecus afarensis. Nature. 297:676–678.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Jungers WL (1988) Relative joint size and hominoid locomotor adaptations with implications for the evolution of hominid bipedalism. J. Hum. Evol. 17:247–265.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Jungers WL (1991) A pygmy perspective on body size and shape in Australopithecus afarensis (AL 288-1, “Lucy”). In Y Coppens and B Senut (eds): Origine(s) de la Bipédie chez les Hominidés, Cah. Paléoanthrop. Paris: Editions du CNRS, pp. 215–224.Google Scholar
  28. Kay RF (1981) The nut-crackers — A new theory of the adaptations of the Ramapithecinae. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 55:141–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kay RF (1985) Dental evidence for the diet ofAustralopithecus. Ann. Rev. Anthropol. 14:15–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kay RF, and Grine FE (1988) Tooth morphology, wear and diet in Australopithecus and Paranthropus from southern Africa. In F Grine (ed.): Evolutionary History of the Robust Australopithecines. Chicago: Aldine, pp. 427–447.Google Scholar
  31. Kay RF, and Hylander WL (1978) The dental structure of mammalian folivores with special reference to Primates and Phalangeroidea (Marsupialia). In GG Montgomery (ed.): The Biology of Arboreal Folivores. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Inst. Press, pp. 173–191.Google Scholar
  32. Kimbel WH, Johanson DC, and Rak Y (1994) The first skull and other new discoveries ofAustralopithecus afarensis at Hadar, Ethiopia. Nature 368:449–451.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kinzey WG (1976) Positional behavior and ecology in Callicebus torquatus. Yrbk. Phys. Anthropol. 20:468–480.Google Scholar
  34. Kinzey WG (1977) Diet and feeding behaviour ofCallicebus torquatus. In TH Clutton Brock (ed.): Primate Ecology. London: Academic Press, pp. 127–152.Google Scholar
  35. Kinzey WG (1978) Feeding behaviour and molar features in two species of titi monkey. In DJ Chivers and J Herbert (eds.): Recent Advances in Primatology, Vol. 1. London: Academic Press, pp. 373–385.Google Scholar
  36. Kummer B (1991) Biomechanical foundations of the development of human bipedalism. In Y Coppens and B Senut (eds): Origine(s) de la Bipédie chez les Hominidés, Cah. Paléoanthrop. Paris: Editions du CNRS, pp. 1–8.Google Scholar
  37. Langdon JH, Bruckner J, and Baker HH (1991) Pedal mechanics and bipedalism in early hominids. In Y Coppens and B Senut (eds): Origine(s) de la Bipédie chez les Hominidés, Cah. Paléoanthrop. Paris: Editions du CNRS, pp. 159–167.Google Scholar
  38. Latimer B (1991) Locomotor adaptations in Australopithecus afarensis: The issue of arboreality. In Y Coppens and B Senut (eds.): Origine(s) de la Bipédie chez les Hominidés, Cah. Paléoanthrop. Paris: Editions du CNRS, pp. 169–176.Google Scholar
  39. Latimer B, and Lovejoy CO (1989) The calcaneus of Australopithecus afarensis and its implications for the evolution of bipedality. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 78:369–386.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Latimer B, and Lovejoy CO (1990) Hallucal tarsometatarsal joint in Australopithecus afarensis. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 82:125–133.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Latimer B, Lovejoy CO, Johanson DC, and Coppens, Y (1982) Hominid tarsal, metatarsal and phalangeal bones recovered from the Hadar formation: 1974–1977 collections. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 53:701–719.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Leakey MG, Feibel CS, McDougall I, and Walker AC (1995) New four-million-year-old hominid species from Kanapoi and Allia Bay, Kenya. Nature 376:565–571.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Lovejoy CO (1981) The origin of man. Science. 211:341–350.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Lovejoy CO (1988) The evolution of human walking. Sci. Am. 259:118–125.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Lovejoy CO, Johanson DC, and Coppens Y (1982) Hominid upper limb bones recovered from the Hadar Formation: 1974–1977 collections. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 57:637–649.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. McHenry HM (1986) The first bipeds: A comparison of the A. afarensis and A. africanus postcranium and implications for the evolution of bipedalism. J. Hum. Evol. 15:177–191.Google Scholar
  47. McHenry HM (1991a) First steps? Analyses of the postcranium of early hominids. In Y Coppens and B Senut (eds): Origine(s) de la Bipédie chez les Hominidés, Cah. Paléoanthrop. Paris: Editions du CNRS, pp. 133–141.Google Scholar
  48. McHenry HM (1991b) Sexual dimorphism in Australopithecus afarensis. J. Hum. Evol. 20:21–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. McHenry HM (1992) Body size and proportions of early hominids. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 87:407–431.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Peters CR (1987) Nut-like oil seeds: Food for monkeys, chimpanzees, humans and probably ape-men. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 73:333–363.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Puech P-F, and Albertini H (1984) Dental microwear and mechanisms in early hominids from Laetoli and Hadar. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 65:87–92.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Rak Y (1991) Lucy’s pelvic anatomy: Its role in bipedal gait. J. Hum. Evol. 20:283–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Robinson JT (1972) Early Hominid Posture and Locomotion. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  54. Rodman PS (1984) Foraging and social systems of orangutans and chimpanzees. In PS Rodman and JGH Cant (eds.): Adaptations for Foraging in Nonhuman Primates: Contributions to an Organismal Biology of Prosimians, Monkeys, and Apes. New York: Columbia University Press, pp. 134–160.Google Scholar
  55. Rose MD (1976) Bipedal behaviour of olive baboons (Papio anubis) and its relevance to an understanding of the evolution of human bipedalism. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 44:247–261.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Rose MD (1984) Food acquisition and the evolution of positional behaviour: The case of bipedalism. In DJ Chivers, BA Wood, and A Bilsborough (eds.): Food Acquisition and Processing in Primates. New York: Plenum Press, pp. 509–524.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Rose MD (1991) The process of bipedalization in hominids. In Y Coppens and B Senut, (eds): Origine(s) de la Bipédie chez les Hominidés, Cah. Paléoanthrop. Paris: Editions du CNRS, pp. 37–48.Google Scholar
  58. Rosenberg KR, and Trevathan W (1995) Bipedalism and human birth: The obstetrical dilemma revisited. Evol. Anthropol. 4:161–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Sarmiento EE (1988) Anatomy of the hominoid wrist joint: Its evolutionary and functional implications. Int. J. Primatol. 9:281–345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Schmid P (1983) Eine Reconstrucktion des Skelettes von A.L. 288-1 (Hadar) und deren konsequenzen. Folia Primatol. 40:283–306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Schmid P (1991) The trunk of the Australopithecines. In Y Coppens and B Senut, (eds): Origine(s) de la Bipédie chez les Hominidés, Cah. Paléoanthrop. Paris: Editions du CNRS, pp. 225–234.Google Scholar
  62. Stern JT, Jr (1976) Before bipedality. Ybk. Phys. Anthropol. 19:59–68.Google Scholar
  63. Stern JT, Jr, and Susman RL (1983) The locomotor anatomy ofAustralopithecus afarensis. Am J. Phys. Anthropol. 60:279–317.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Stoller M (1995) The Obstetric Pelvis and Mechanism of Labor in Nonhuman Primates. Ph.D. Dissertation, The University of Chicago.Google Scholar
  65. Tague RG, and Lovejoy CO (1986) The obstetric pelvis of A.L. 288-1 (Lucy) J. Hum. Evol. 15:237–255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Tardieu C (1983) L’articulation du genou. Analyse morpho-fonctionelle chez les primates. Application aux hominides fossiles. Paris: Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique.Google Scholar
  67. Taylor CR, Caldwell SL, and Rowntree VJ (1972) Running up and down hills: Some consequences of size. Science 178:1096–1097.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Teaford MF (1985) Molar microwear and diet in the genus Cebus. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 66:363–370.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Teaford MF (1994) Dental microwear and dental function. Evol. Anthropol. 3:17–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Teaford MF, and Walker AC (1984) Quantitative differences in dental microwear between primate species with different diets and a comment on the presumed diet of Sivapithecus. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 64:191–200.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Tobias PV (1980) A survey and synthesis of the African hominids of the late Tertiary and early Quaternary periods. In L Konigsson (ed.): Current Argument on Early Man. Oxford: Pergamon, pp. 86–113.Google Scholar
  72. Tuttle RH (1975) Parallelism, brachiation and hominoid phylogeny. In WP Luckett and FS Szalay (eds.): The Phylogeny of the Primates: A Multidisciplinary Approach. New York: Plenum, pp. 447–480.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Tuttle RH (1981) Evolution of hominid bipedalism and prehensile capabilities. Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. 292:89–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Tuttle RH, Webb DM, and Tuttle NI (1991) Laetoli footprint trails and the evolution of hominid bipedalism. In Y Coppens and B Senut (eds.): Origine(s) de la Bipédie chez les Hominidés, Cah. Paléoanthrop. Paris: Editions du CNRS, pp. 187–198.Google Scholar
  75. van Schaik CP (1983) Why are diurnal primates living in groups? Behaviour 87:120–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. van Schaik CP and van Hooff J (1983) On the ultimate causes of primate social systems. Behaviour 85:91–117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. van Schaik CP, van Noordwijk MA, Boer RJ de, Tonkelaar I den. (1983) The effect of group size on time budgets and social behaviour in wild long-tailed macaques. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 13:173–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. van Schaik CP, van Noordwijk MA, Warsono B, and Sutriono E (1983) Party size and early detection of predators in Sumatran forest primates. Primates. 24:211–221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. van Schaik CP, and van Noordwijk MA (1989) The special role of male Cebus monkeys in predation avoidance and its effect on group composition. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 24:265–276.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Wainwright PC, and Reilly SM (1994) Ecological Morphology: Integrative Organismal Biology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  81. Walker AC (1981) Diet and teeth—dietary hypotheses and human evolution. Phil, Trans. Roy. Soc. London B. 292:57–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. White TD, Johanson DC, and Kimbel WH (1981) Australopithecus africanus: Its phyletic position reconsidered. S. Afr. J. Sci. 77:445–470.Google Scholar
  83. White TD, Suwa G, and Asfaw B (1994) Australopithecus ramidus, a new species of early hominid from Aramis, Ethiopia. Nature 371:306–312.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. White TD, Suwa G, Hart WK, Walter RC, WoldeGabriel G, de Heinselin J, Clark JD, Asfaw B, and Vrba E (1993) New discoveries ofAustralopithecus at Maka in Ethiopia. Nature 366:261–265.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Wrangham RW (1977) Feeding behaviors of chimpanzees in Gombe National Park, Tanzania. In TH Clutton Brock (ed.): Primate Ecology. London: Academic Press, pp. 503–538.Google Scholar
  86. Wrangham RW (1980) Bipedal locomotion as a feeding adaptation in gelada baboons, and its implications for hominid evolution. J. Hum. Evol. 9:329–331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kevin D. Hunt
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA

Personalised recommendations