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In paleoanthropology the group of hominids known as the "robust" australopithecines has emerged as one of the most interesting. Through them we have the opportunity to examine the origin, natural history, and ultimate extinction of not just a single species, but of an entire branch in the hominid fossil record. It is generally agreed that the human lineage can be traced back to this group of comparatively small-brained, large-toothed creatures.
This volume focuses on the evolutionary history of these early hominids with state-of-the-art contributions by leading international authorities in the field. Although a case can be made for a "robust" lineage, the functional and taxonomic implications of the morphological features are subject to vigorous disagreement. An area of lively debate is the possible causal relationship between the presence of early Homo and the origin, evolution, and virtual extinction of "robust" australopithecines. This volume summarizes what has been learned about the evolutionary history of the "robust" australopithecines in the 50 years since Robert Broom first encountered the visage of a new kind of ape-man from Kromdraai.
New discoveries from Kromdraai to Lomekwi have served to keep us aware that the paleontological record for hominid evolution is hardly exhausted. Because of such finds no single volume can hope to stand as a summary on the "robust" australopithecines for very long, but this classic volume comes close to achieving this goal. The book sheds new light upon some old questions and also acts to provide new questions. The answers to those questions bring us closer to a fuller understanding and appreciation of the origins, evolution, and ultimate demise of the "robust" australopithecines. Since the "robust" australopithecines most likely stand as our closest relatives, a better understanding of their origin, history, and demise serves to provide heightened appreciation of the course of human evolution itself. This definitive volume addresses the questions and problems surrounding this important lineage.
Reprint, originally published in 1988.