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Did ancient hominin 'Lucy' fall from a tree ?


Posted on Monday, 29 August, 2016 | Comment icon 13 comments

Did Lucy fall to her death from a tree ? Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia
Scientists believe that an early human ancestor discovered 40 years ago died after falling out of a tree.
When paleoanthropologist Donald C. Johanson first discovered the fossilized bones of an early hominin species dating back 3.2 million years while on an expedition in Ethiopia, the find was celebrated as one of the most significant palaeontological discoveries ever made.

Named 'Lucy', this ancient ancestor of modern humans belonged to a species known as Australopithecus afarensis - a primitive ape-like biped with long arms and curved fingers.

While the discovery has helped scientists to learn much about the lives of these prehistoric hominins, one mystery in particular still endures - how did Lucy die ?

Now following an extensive new study of her remains using modern scanning techniques, scientists believe that she may have succumbed to injuries she sustained after falling out of a tree.
Compressive fractures identified within her bones suggest that she fell feet-first and then tumbled forwards after hitting the ground with her arms outstretched in an effort to protect herself.

"It tells us she was conscious when she reached the ground," said paleoanthropologist John Kappelman from the University of Texas.

Not everyone however is convinced that these findings are correct.

Anthropologist Professor Ericka N. L’Abbé at the University of Pretoria in South Africa for instance believes that these bone fractures had likely occurred after Lucy had died.

"The major drawback is that they didn’t look under a microscope," she said. "Elephant bones and hippo ribs appear to have the same kind of breakage. It’s unlikely they fell out of a tree."

Source: New York Times | Comments (13)

Tags: Lucy

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #4 Posted by Not Your Huckleberry on 29 August, 2016, 19:07
How do they know it was a tree? There are a million other ways she could've sustained a similar injury. 
Comment icon #5 Posted by paperdyer on 29 August, 2016, 19:50
It would matter IF we knew what she was trying to get to eat or do.  Maybe she was hiding from something and fell from the tree when she tried to climb down.  This theorizes, as I don't want to ASS_U_ME, a tree was involved at all as theorized by Not Your Huckleberry.
Comment icon #6 Posted by Clair on 29 August, 2016, 19:54
That goes without saying.
Comment icon #7 Posted by third_eye on 29 August, 2016, 20:35
maybe, just maybe ... Lucy slipped ... ~
Comment icon #8 Posted by Aftermath on 29 August, 2016, 20:43
Perhaps a tree wasn't involved, as pointed out by Anthropologist Professor Ericka N. L’Abbé at the University of Pretoria in South Africa.  Moreover, perhaps Lucy received a severe beating from another ancient hominin; point is we'll never know for sure so let's put her to rest and move along.
Comment icon #9 Posted by third_eye on 29 August, 2016, 21:09
OoooOooh Paleo CSI ... lovin' this I am ... ~
Comment icon #10 Posted by Buzz_Light_Year on 30 August, 2016, 1:16
Lucy, you got some 'splainin' to do! --RICKY RICARDO, I Love Lucy  
Comment icon #11 Posted by paperdyer on 31 August, 2016, 18:58
Hey CBS! New idea for the CSI Franchise!  First class - Who or what killed Lucy!
Comment icon #12 Posted by Gingitsune on 1 September, 2016, 17:35
John Hawks' take:   http://johnhawks.net/weblog/fossils/afarensis/lucy-falling-tree-kappelman-2016.html
Comment icon #13 Posted by docyabut2 on 2 September, 2016, 5:26
I don't think she fell from a tree, other wise her body and bones would have been scattered and eaten by  many other animals    


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