How Did Lucy Die? Biggest Mystery In 3 Millennia Solved

First Posted: Aug 30, 2016 04:07 AM EDT

Lucy, the most well-known Australopithecus afarensis in the world gave scientists valuable insight about the lives of our ancestors from 3.18 million years ago. Her skeleton, which was found sticking out of an Ethiopian stream bed in 1974, was estimated to have been 40% complete and is considered the best representation of her early human species.

However, how she came to rest in the stream remained a mystery and has since been considered the world's oldest cold case - until now.

In a press release from the University of Texas at Austin, scientists finally settled on a conclusion: Lucy died from falling off a tree. Lead author John Kappelman, a UT Austin anthropology and geological sciences professor said, It is ironic that the fossil at the center of a debate about the role of arborealism in human evolution likely died from injuries suffered from a fall out of a tree."

A new analysis conducted 40 years after her discovery revealed that Lucy has a pattern of distinctive fractures that scientists claim to have pointed to be from a fall from great heights. Kappelman said that even though he taught about the fossil since he was a grad student in the 1980s, and knew of the existence of her fractures, he never thought to ask what caused them - and so far, nobody put out a theory on how our most famous ancestor died.

Still, according to National Geographic, the theory already came upon controversies, as some researcher remain unconvinced, saying that the cracks in her bones formed long after she died. Donald Johanson, a paleoanthropologist at the Arizona State University who was credited for discovering and naming Lucy said, "The kind of breakage that we are looking at on these bones is consistent with the kind of bone damage on almost all of the other fossils at Hadar-elephant fossils, rhino fossils, monkey fossils."

He added, "they are undoubtedly the result of geological forces acting on the bones after they are buried during the process of fossilization."

See Now: NASA's Juno Spacecraft's Rendezvous With Jupiter's Mammoth Cyclone

©2017 All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission. The window to the world of science news.

Join the Conversation

Real Time Analytics