Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Study Suggests that Lucy Spent a Significant Amount of Time in Trees

The mystery of human ancestry has long been a topic of interest throughout the world. For years, paleontologists have made their contribution to the research of this topic by examining fossils. There are what seems like an endless amount of fossils buried beneath the Earth's surface. Some of these fossils share direct ancestry with Homo sapiens. Lucy is one of these fossils. Lucy was discovered by Donald Johanson and Tom Gray in Ethiopia in 1974. 40% of the skeleton had been preserved. The scientists decided that Lucy belonged to a new species, Australopithecus afarensis. Named after the Beatles' song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," Lucy was a momentous discovery. At the time of the discovery, the fossils were to the most ancient early human ever found. Johanson found the fossils to be 3.2 million years old.

A new study suggests that Lucy probably spent a lot of time in trees. It is universally agreed that she walked on two feet and that she climbed trees, but the amount of time spent on the ground and in trees is up for debate. Researchers looked at the way bones can grow stronger through everyday use. By analyzing the structure of her arm and leg bones and comparing it to that of humans and chimpanzees, the leader of the study, Christopher Ruff, concluded that she was "stressing her limbs more like a chimpanzee than a modern human." Ruff discovered this by examining a 3-D scan of the bones. The cortical thickness of the bones was abnormally large. This indicated that she was very strong. Ruff said, "You don't develop that kind of arm strength unless you exercise your arms a lot." This study suggests that Lucy gained her strength by doing a considerable amount of climbing. However, Johanson stills believes that Lucy spent most of her time walking. It is still not clear, but this evidence supports that Lucy was more of a climber than a walker.

I think Lucy was one of the biggest paleontological discoveries of all time. I am interested in the study of human ancestry, and this article definitely taught me a lot about it. There is an almost infinite amount of fossils that are still yet to be discovered. The exact steps to human evolution remain unclear, but this discovery puts us one step closer to fully knowing human ancestry.

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