Part IV: Pleistocene Epoch
The paranthropines are three species of fossil hominins that exhibited hyper-robust masticatory apparatus, as evidenced by their heavy faces and mandibles, huge molars, and muscle insertions. They were included in the genus Australopithecus for many years, but the original genus invented by Robert Broom for the South African form, Paranthropus robustus, has been revived for at least two of the species. Chronologically, the earliest species was aethiopicus, and some researchers still assign them to Australopithecus. The second oldest is Paranthropus boisei, and both Au. aethiopicus and P. boisei are from East African sites. The South African and youngest species is P. robustus. The last of the paranthropines died out ~1 mya, 1.7 mya after Au. aethiopicus’s first appearance in the fossil record. They were a very interesting and apparently successful group of animals that adapted to the changing African landscape by expanding their dietary niche. The geographic range of the eastern species stretched down the “hominin corridor” from Ethiopia to Malawi, whereas the South African form is known only from South Africa. While it is thought that their preferred foods were similar to the more gracile forms, they could fall back on tougher and harder foods when resources became scarce.