Lucy is a 3.2 million old distant cousin of modern humans. Now, scientists revealed her cause of death. The Australopithecus afarensis is our most notorious ancestor, in the family of hominids.
Here’s how the story goes, as far as researchers are concerned: As she sought shelter from the many predators threatening her existence, our primate ancestor found a tree to climb.
Lucy planned to spend the night in that tree. Despite walking on two feet, like humans do, she also had strong shoulders to help her to climb trees. Walking on two feet is an important difference between Lucy and earlier human-like monkeys, or hominids.
Lucy’s Final Moments
Unfortunately, that night Lucy lost her grip, slipped and fell from the tree. The last thing she did was to reach out her hands, so she can break her fall. She hit the ground hard and broke her bones. Lucy died by herself.
While some researchers support this side of the story as true, other scientists believe it’s nothing but a fairy tale.
Lucy was discovered in Ethiopia, in 1974. Since then, she has been extensively studied. That’s because her skeleton is the oldest and best-preserved hominid fossils found to date.
Her skeleton gives us clues on how she might have lived. She was able to walk in an upright position, and she displayed an interesting complex of modern and ancestral features, which made her bipedal, at a time when most other primates swung from the trees.
When she died, Lucy was already an adult. She was most probably vegetarian. A study published on Monday in Nature Communications tried to figure out the mystery of her death.
Consequently, the research involved X-ray scanning at ultra-high resolution. This happened in 2008, while the fossils were on tour in museums across America. The scans were hard work, lasting for 10 days around the clock.
Even though over time the bones sustained damage, the scans had an unprecedented level of detail. So scanning revealed evidence of bone breaking which occurred before Lucy’s death. Upon further examination, scientists found fractures which looked like the consequence of falling from a height.
Furthermore, the story of her death cannot be proven with the techniques that scientists have today. There is no way of reconstituting Lucy’s cause of death accurately.
Understanding The Big Picture
But Lucy and other human cousins and hominids like her played their part in helping us understand the evolution of human life.
One of the big questions that scientists get all the time, is why aren’t apes still evolving? The answer to that question is complex. To put it in short, current monkeys are perfectly adapted to their environments, so there is no need for them to evolve anymore.
Humans evolved because of many factors. Some of them include climate change, migration, changes in the environment and adaptability. Another important point is that evolution does not always mean progress.
For example, creatures living in caves evolve to have no eyes, even if their ancestors had eye-sight. Or sea urchins which have no brain evolved from an ancestor with a brain.
All in all, this means that all creatures are doing their best to adapt to the given conditions, but there is no directing element.
Image Source – Wikipedia