By Maina Kiarie
Paranthropus aethiopicus lived 2.7 to 2.3 million years ago in the Turkana basin of northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia. A partial, toothless mandible was found in 1967 in Omo by a team of French paleontologists and was thought to be different enough from the mandibles of early human species known at that time. The famous “Black Skull” discovered west of Late Turkana in Northern Kenya by Alan Walker and Richard Leakey validated the theory that there was a new “robust” australopithecine species.
P. aethiopicus has a powerful jaw, large megadont teeth, a protruding face and a well developed sagittal crest on top of the skull which indicates huge chewing muscles, that connected back toward the back of the crest and created strong chewing forces on the front teeth.
Many features on P. aethiopicus are quite similar to Australopithecus afarensis, and P. aethiopicus may be a descendant of Au. afarensis and a direct ancestor of Paranthropus boisei.
The dark color of the fossil comes from minerals in the soil that were absorbed by the skull as it fossilized.
A large humerus found in East Turkana and an elongated ulna found in Omo indicate that P. aethiopicus had a large forelimb and a large body.