SCIENCE

Lucy was able to walk upright: confirmation from a new study

Lucy is the name commonly used to identify find A.L. 288-1, discovered in 1974 in Ethiopia, consisting of hundreds of fossil bone fragments representing 40% of the skeleton of a female specimen, the first one discovered, of Australopithecus afarensis.

The University of Cambridge has recently published a study in which the muscular structure of Lucy has been entirely reconstructed in 3D, demonstrating how this specimen was able to walk bipedally and with straight knees, a typically human characteristic. 

Named for the Beatles' classic 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds', Lucy is one of the most complete specimens of any Australopithecus ever unearthed, with 40% of her skeleton recovered.

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Now we have proof: Lucy could walk upright.
Lucy is the name by which find A.L. 288-1, discovered in 1974 in Ethiopia, is commonly identified. It consists of hundreds of fossil bone fragments representing 40% of the skeleton of a female specimen, the first discovered, of Australopithecus afarensis. Dating back 3.2 million years, this hominid was actually able to walk upright.
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The study
This research was conducted by Dr. Ashleigh Wiseman, of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at the University of Cambridge, published in 'Royal Society Open Science'. Specifically, Wiseman was able to model the leg and pelvis muscles of the famous specimen in 3D. The researcher was able to use the only recently published open source data on Lucy's fossil to programme a digital model of her muscles.
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The structure of Lucy's muscles
The researcher was able, with the amount of data she was able to retrieve, to reconstruct as many as 36 muscles for each leg, most of which were larger in Lucy and occupied more leg space than in modern humans (74% in Lucy, about 50% in normal modern Sapiens humans). For example, it was seen that the core muscles of Lucy's calves and thighs were more than twice as large as those of modern humans, as our fat-to-muscle ratio is much higher.
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Ashleigh Wiseman's words.
This is Dr Wiseman's comment on Lucy's muscle structure: 'Lucy's ability to walk upright can only be known by reconstructing the path and space a muscle occupies within the body. We are the only animals able to stand upright with our knees straight; Lucy's muscles suggest that she was as adept at bipedalism as evolved humans, and that she was perhaps even comfortable in trees'.
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Ashleigh Wiseman's words (pt. 2)
The habitats of Australopithecus afarensis were open, wooded grasslands as well as denser forests in East Africa 3 to 4 million years ago. "These reconstructions of Lucy's muscles suggest that it would have been able to exploit both habitats effectively," Wiseman concluded.
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19/04/2024
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