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Keywords:

  • Plio-Pleistocene hominids;
  • Australopithecus;
  • Homo habilis;
  • Weight

Abstract

The discovery of several associated body parts of early hominids whose taxonomic identity is known inspires this study of body size and proportions in early hominids. The approach consists of finding the relationship between various measures of skeletal size and body mass in modern ape and human specimens of known body weight. This effort leads to 78 equations which predict body weight from 95 fossil specimens ranging in geological age between 4 and 1.4 mya. Predicted weights range from 10 kg to over 160 kg, but the partial associated skeletons provide the essential clues as to which predictions are most reliable. Measures of hindlimb joint size are the best and probably those equations based on the human samples are better than those based on all Hominoidea.

Using hindlimb joint size of specimens of relatively certain taxonomy and assuming these measures were more like those of modern humans than of apes, the male and female averages are as follows: Australopithecus afarensis, 45 and 29 kg; A. africanus, 41 and 30 kg; A. robustus, 40 and 32 kg; A. boisei, 49 and 34 kg; H. habilis, 52 and 32 kg. These values appear to be consistent with the range of size variation seen in the entire postcranial samples that can be assigned to species. If hominoid (i.e., ape and human combined) proportions are assumed, the males would be 10 to 23 kg larger and the females 4 to 10 kg larger.