Australopithe-what? 10 Facts about “Lucy”and the Australopithecus Afarensis

In honour of today marking the 41st anniversary of the discovery of “Lucy” here are ten facts about the early human species- Australopithecus Afarensis.

 

1- The famous Australopithecus Afarensis, Lucy, is dated to be roughly 3.2 Million years old, although her species lived between 3.9 and 2.8 million years ago.

2- Lucy was named after The Beatles song “Lucy in the sky with diamonds”. The team who found the remains in Hadar, Ethiopia on November 24 1974, were so excited by their find that after discerning that they’d uncovered a fairly complete hominid skeleton they spent the night celebrating and drinking. During the course of their festivities they listened to the popular Beatles song many times over and somehow, though nobody knows who did it, the remains were given the name Lucy.

3- Nobody quite knows how Lucy died. She shows no signs of a violent death save for one lone tooth puncture on her left pelvic bone from a carnivore. It’s not known if this was done pre or post-mortem, only that it occurred around the same time that she died.

4- While a number of casts of Lucy’s skeletal remains are displayed in museums across the globe her actual physical remains are housed in the Paleoanthropology Laboratories of the National Museum of Ethiopia.

5- Lucy’s species, Australopithecus Afarensis, was not formally recognised and named until 1978 after a spate of fossil discoveries had occurred in Hadar, Ethiopia and Laetoli, Tanzania.

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6- As a species they were only small in weight and stature although the men were far larger than the women. Men, on average, weighed 42 Kg’s and stood 151 cm’s tall while their female counterparts averaged a weight of 29 Kg’s  and stood 105 cm’s tall.

7- The brain of the Australopithecus Afarensis was roughly 1/3 the size of that of today’s modern human brain.

8- The youngest A. A skeleton to be found to date is “Selam” who was discovered in 2000. She is believed to have been three years old when she died and lived 3.3 million years ago.

9- The species is initially thought to have lived on a plant based diet but in 2010 scientist noted that the A.A may have also used tools to cut and cook meat. This would make them the first of any species to do so.

10- The Australopithecus Afarensis species lived during a time in which many environmental changes took place and yet scientist are unable to discern why they show no signs of adapting to these changes.

 

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A cast of Lucy’s skeletal remains

 

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