Falk argues that the robust australopithecines avoided the hot expanses of savanna and instead frequented wooded areas near lakes and rivers, where they mainly munched nuts and seeds (SN: 7/2/88, p.14).
Thus, he argues, Falk inappropriately uses only one anatomical feature -- venous drainage patterns--to group Lucy and other Hadar hominids with robust australopithecines.
To top it off, Falk's scenario of robust australopithecines who put down roots in moist, wooded areas, while their gracile counterparts roamed the savannas and developed bigger brains, presents an unsupported, "cartoon-like" picture of hominid evolution, Kimbel contends.
Indeed, says Vrba, South African robust australopithecines may have occupied more arid, open stretches of savanna than did gracile australopithecines.
At an international scientific conference at Stony Brook last year (SN: 4/11/88, p.229), two groups of scientists reported that there are no marked differences in body size between so-called robusts and other early hominids, including H.
Distinguishing features of the robusts include massive teeth and jaws, as well as a skull structured to support enormous facial muscles.
From the Stony Book conference, there emerged a new picture of the robusts as creatures who were not particularly robust in stature and had faces and teeth that differed significantly from other australopithecine species, such as the East African A.
That remarkable array of fossils, uncovered in sediment dated at approximately 1.8 million years old, includes the first well-preserved collection of hand and foot bones belonging to the robust australopithecines.
"Conroy and Vannier have shown that Taung resembled the robust
australopithecines more closely than it resembled modern humans in its sequence of dental development,' says Tobias.
Lucy's larger colors at Hadar were, inOlson's view, the most primitive members of the robust australopithecine lineage, which he prefers to call Paranthropus.
Grine hopes some kind of consensuscan be hashed out at a major workshop on robust australopithecines that will be held, under his direction, at Stony Brook toward the end of March.