Hu­man an­ces­tor ‘Lucy’ died fall­ing from a tree

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By REUTERS in Austin, Texas

Lucy, one of the best known an­ces­tors of hu­mans to ever roam the earth, may have died af­ter a fall from a tree, Univer­sity of Texas re­searchers said on Mon­day af­ter study­ing her 3.18-mil­lion-year-old fos­silized re­mains.

A high res­o­lu­tion X-ray CT scan of Lucy, a fe­male ho­minid, in­di­cates she suf­fered frac­tures to her right up­per arm not typ­i­cally seen in fos­sils. There were also less se­vere frac­tures on the left shoul­der and other com­pres­sive frac­tures through­out the skele­ton, they said.

The in­juries were con­sis­tent with those “caused by a fall from con­sid­er­able height when the con­scious vic­tim stretched out an arm in an at­tempt to break the fall,” ac­cord­ing to John Kap­pel­man, a Univer­sity of Texas an­thro­pol­ogy and ge­o­log­i­cal sci­ences pro­fes­sor, who con­sulted with Stephen Pearce, an or­tho­pe­dic sur­geon at the Austin Bone and Joint Clinic.

“This com­pres­sive frac­ture re­sults when the hand hits the ground dur­ing a fall, im­pact­ing the el­e­ments of the shoul­der against one an­other to cre­ate a unique sig­na­ture on the humerus,” Kap­pel­man said.

Lucy’s skele­ton was un­earthed in 1974 in Ethiopia. Since then, re­searchers around the world have been look­ing at the fos­sil of the ho­minid to find its links to mod­ern hu­mans. Kap­pel­man spec­u­lated that Lucy, who was 107 cms tall, for­aged and sought nightly refuge in trees. Her in­juries in­di­cate she fell from a height of about of more than 12 me­ters.

Univer­sity of Texas re­searchers, in­clud­ing Kap­pel­man, in 2009 com­pleted the first high res­o­lu­tion com­puted to­mog­ra­phy scan of Lucy when the fos­sil toured the United States. The study re­sulted in some 35,000 CT elec­tronic slices, which were then stud­ied by univer­sity re­searchers.

“When the ex­tent of Lucy’s mul­ti­ple in­juries first came into fo­cus, her im­age popped into my mind’s eye, and I felt a jump of em­pa­thy across time and space,” Kap­pel­man said.

Re­con­struc­tion of ‘Lucy’ fos­sil re­mains

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