Sexual dimorphism in the face of Australopithecus africanus


  • Charles A. Lockwood

    Corresponding author
    1. Institute of Human Origins, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona 85287-4101
    2. Palaeo-Anthropology Research Group, Department of Anatomical Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand Medical School, Parktown 2193, South Africa
    • Institute of Human Origins, Box 874101, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-4101.
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Recently discovered crania of Australopithecus africanus from Sterkfontein Member 4 and Makapansgat enlarge the size range of the species and encourage a reappraisal of both the degree and pattern of sexual dimorphism. Resampling methodology (bootstrapping) is used here to establish that A. africanus has a greater craniofacial size range than chimpanzees or modern humans, a range which is best attributed to a moderately high degree of sexual dimorphism. Compared to other fossil hominins, this variation is similar to that of Homo habilis (sensu lato) but less than that of A. boisei. The finding of moderately high dimorphism is corroborated by a CV-based estimate and ratios between those specimens considered to be male and those considered to be female. Inferences about the pattern of craniofacial dimorphism in the A. africanus face currently rely on the relationship of morphology and size. Larger specimens, particularly Stw 505, show prominent superciliary eminences and glabellar regions, but in features related in part to canine size, such as the curvature of the infraorbital surface, large and small specimens of A. africanus are similar. In this respect, the pattern resembles that of modern humans more so than chimpanzees or lowland gorillas. A. africanus may also show novel patterns of sexual dimorphism when compared to extant hominines, such as in the form of the anterior pillar. However, males of the species do not exhibit characteristics of more derived hominins, such as A. robustus. Am J Phys Anthropol 108:97–127, 1999. © 1999 Wiley-Liss, Inc.