Australopithecus afarensis and the single species hypothesis

William R. Leonard*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Ferguson (1989) has recently argued that the variability seen in the fossils assigned to A. afarensis is far more than expected for a single hominid species, and therefore proposes they represent multiple taxa. In particular, he utilizes data on variation in dental metrics and in premolar morphology in support of this hypothesis. A re-evaluation of these data finds the above conclusion to be unwarranted. Variation in dental metrics provides no basis for separating this sample into multiple taxa, regardless of the analog that is used (i.e. modern primate species or fossil hominid species). Additionally, data on P3 morphology indicate that the pattern of variation seen in the Laetoli/Hadar sample is comparable to the sexual variation seen within a single hominoid species. Overall, the balance of the evidence at present indicates that the fossils from Laetoli and Hadar represent a single hominid species, A. afarensis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)125-130
Number of pages6
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1991


  • Analogy
  • Australopithecus afarensis
  • Dental metrics
  • Morphology
  • Single species hypothesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology

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