‘Lucy’ May Have Been A Tree Dweller, Studies Show

First Posted: Dec 01, 2016 04:10 AM EST

Thanks to sophisticated technology, scientists recently found that ancient human ancestor, Lucy, may have been adept at climbing trees, which, sadly, may have been fatal.

Reuters reported that on Wednesday, researchers announced that an intensive analysis of the 3.19 million-year-old fossils from Lucy showed that she had heavily built bones, like those of chimpanzees', which is an indicator of species that spendsignificant time climbing trees as they pull their arms to pull themselves up.

Lucy's species, called Australopithecus afarensis, were noted to have a combination of ape-like and human-like traits. Her feet are known to be adapted for walking upright rather than for grasping tree trunks. However, it did make the researchers wonder whether or not Lucy spent time on trees as much as her ancestors did.

High-resolution X-rays and CT Scans on the fossils at the University of Texas compared bones of modern humans to those of chimpanzees', especially considering that the debate on whether or not Lucy climbed trees had been raging since the discovery of her in 1974.

Lucy was by far the most complete skeleton of the earliest hominid ever found. As The New York Times noted, she was a key in understanding human evolution, leaving little doubt that she walked on two feet like modern humans. It also showed that she climbed trees to sleep, avoid predators and gather food, which many scientists believe was the reason of her fall -- and her subsequent death.

Still, as paleontologist Christopher Ruff from Johns Hopkins University noted, it did not mean that Lucy acted like a chimp. Se merely stressed her limbs more than modern humans. For comparison's sake, the bones of a tennis player's racket arm has a larger set of bone bangles (cortical thickness) than the non-racket arm. Because Lucy does not seem to have much evidence of tool use, scientists reckoned she used her arms to climb trees, although there are also scientists who believe she was more of a walker than a climber.

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