Characteristics of plains-living apes
Humans evolved from ape-like creatures about the size of Chimpanzees. They were descendants of a forest-living ape that had been widespread through not only Africa but Europe and Asia about ten million years ago. The first fossils of the plains-living ape were discovered in southern Africa and in was accordingly named Australopithecus, Southern Ape, but now several more kinds have been discovered in other parts of Africa.
They were not abundant and their fossilised bones are rare, but enough have been found to give a fairly clear idea of what they were like in life. Their hands and feet resembled those of their tree climbing ancestors and were very good at grasping things with nails on the digits, not claws. The limbs were not particularly well suited to running. Their skulls also show clear signs of their forest dwelling past. The eyes, as can be judged from the sockets, were well developed by contrast their sense of smell would have been relatively poor since the nasal clefts were short. The teeth are small and rounded and not well suited to grinding grass or pulping fibrous twigs nor did they have shearing blades, like those of a carnivore. It is probable that they excavated for roots and gathered berries, nuts and fruit, and despite the inadequacies of their anatomy, they became hunters.