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Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Primates
Family: Hominidae
Genus: Australopithecus
A. afarensis ("Lucy")
A. africanus
A. boisei
A. anamensis
A. aethiopicus
A. robustus
A. garhi

Australopithecines (genus Australopithecus) are a group of extinct Hominids that are closely related to humans. A. afarensis and A. africanus are among the most famous of the extinct hominids. A. africanus used to be regarded as ancestral to the genus Homo (in particular Homo erectus), but since then Hominid fossils have been found that are older than A. africanus, but nevertheless seem to belong to the genus Homo. Thus, the genus Homo either split off from the genus Australopithecus at an earlier date (the latest common ancestor being A. afarensis or an even earlier form), or both developed from an as yet possibly unknown common ancestor independently.

Opinions differ as to whether the species aethiopicus, boisei and robustus should be included within the genus Australopithecus. Some palaeontologists would place them in a distinct genus, Paranthropus, which is believed to have developed from the ancestral Australopithecus line. The majority, however, include all the species shown at right in a single genus.

On March 31, 1994 the journal Nature reported the finding in Ethiopia of the first complete Australopithecus afarensis skull.