Femoral lengths and stature in Plio-Pleistocene hominids

Am J Phys Anthropol. 1991 Jun;85(2):149-58. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.1330850204.


This study reports the femoral lengths of 31 Plio-Pleistocene hominids dated between 3.1 and 0.7 million years ago, and uses those lengths to estimate stature by way of the femur-stature ratio reported by Feldesman et al. (Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 78:219-220, 1989). By this method the average female Australopithecus afarensis is 105 cm and the average male is 151 cm. The respective values are 115 and 138 cm for A. africanus. As defined by Howell (In VJ Maglio and HBS Cooke (eds): The Evolution of African Mammals. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1978) and Johanson et al. (Kirtlandia 28:1-14, 1978), Homo habilis is a sexually dimorphic species, with females standing 118 cm and males 157 cm. Such apparently strong dimorphism may be due to the possibility that there are actually two species of nonrobust hominids between 2 and 1.7 m.y.a. The estimate for the female Australopithecus boisei is 124 cm and for the male, 137 cm, but these estimates are especially difficult to be certain of because there are no femora that can be positively identified as male A. boisei. Australopithecus robustus is estimated to be 110 cm (female) and 132 cm (male). African Homo erectus stood 160 cm (female) and 180 cm (male). From these estimates several generalizations are apparent. First, there is apparently strong sexual dimorphism in stature in A. afarensis and H. habilis, but less in the other species. Second, the "robust" australopithecines were relatively small statured. Third, it is apparently not true that humans have been getting progressively taller throughout their evolutionary history. Some individuals were as tall as modern humans 3 m.y.a., by 2 m.y.a. one individual stood about 173 cm, and by 1.7 m.y.a. a stature of 180+ cm was not uncommon.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Body Height*
  • Female
  • Femur / anatomy & histology*
  • Fossils*
  • Hominidae / anatomy & histology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sex Characteristics