Australopithecus (pronounced AW-struh/strey-loh-PITH-i-kuhs; from Latin australis "southern", Greek πίθηκος pithekos "ape") is an extinct genus of hominids. From the evidence gathered by palaeontologists and archaeologists, it appears that the Australopithecus genus evolved in eastern Africa around 4 million years ago before spreading throughout the continent and eventually becoming extinct 2 million years ago. During this time period a number of australopith species emerged, including Australopithecus anamensis, A. afarensis, A. sediba, and A. africanus.

There is still some debate amongst academics whether certain African hominid species of this time, such as A. robustus and A. boisei, constitute members of the same genus; if so, they would be considered to be robust australopiths whilst the others would be considered gracile australopiths. However, if these species do indeed constitute their own genus, then they may be given their own name, the Paranthropus.

It is widely held by archaeologists and palaeontologists that the australopiths played a significant part in human evolution, and it was one of the australopith species that eventually evolved into the Homo genus in Africa around 2 million years ago, which contained within it species like Homo habilis, H. ergaster and eventually the modern human species, H. sapiens sapiens.

Read more about AustralopithecusEvolution, Morphology, Species Variations, Evolutionary Role, Diet, History of Study, Notable Specimens