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Who Is Lucy the Australopithecus?
She's the collection of hundred of bones that were assembled by paleoanthropologist Donald Johanson in Ethiopia in 1974. What makes Lucy stand out amid the thousands of fossils that are discovered every day, scientists were able to practically reassemble her entire skeleton. She helped immensely in furthering our understanding of evolution and “the missing link.” Lucy is thought to be 3.2 million years old.
Here's what you need to know:
In Celebration of When She Was Found, Archeologists Repeatedly Played the Beatles' Song 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds' at the Scene
Upon the discovery of Lucy's fossils, members of Donald Johanson's team were playing the Beatles song “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.” Johanson told Time Magazine in 2009:
Yes, the whole camp was listening to Beatles' tape because I was a great Beatles fan, and “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” was playing and this girl said, well if you think the fossil was a female, why don't you name her Lucy? Initially I was opposed to giving her a cute little name, but that name stuck.
Lucy's discoverer Donald Johanson. (Wikipedia)
In an interview with the Scientific American, Donald Johanson said that he “wasn't particularly keen” on digging on the fateful morning in 1974 when Lucy was discovered. He was coaxed into going out by a graduate student, named Tom Gray, who wanted to properly map an area their party had already excavated in the Afar region of Ethiopia. Johanson says:
Source: Google Doodle
So we went back to the site, up on a little plateau, and marked the locality. And then we walked around and we looked for fossils. I always keep my eyes on the ground–that's the only way you find things there. Tom was on my left side, and I glanced over my right shoulder and saw this perfectly preserved elbow end of a forearm bone, the ulna.
I considered whether it could have been a monkey elbow-we had found fossils of baboons, colobus and other monkeys in the region–but it didn't have the extended flare on the back of it that monkey elbows have. I knew it was a hominin elbow.
During a separate interview with the Academy of Achievement in 1991 Johanson said, “I am reminded of the fact that it was a moment of just absolute exhilaration. This was the most important discovery I had ever made in my life. It was a discovery which has irrevocably changed my whole life's direction. It immediately elevated me to the status of one of the world's important and leading anthropologists.”
She Was Mostly a Vegetarian
Lucy, and her contemporaries, were mostly vegetarians who fed on fruits from trees, according to a BBC profile. That piece notes that her species had begun to alter their diets slightly and were descending to the earth on a more regular basis. Prior to that, Lucy's genus would have felt more at home in the trees. She had a cone shaped rib cage, like a gorilla or chimpanzee, which allowed for a bigger stomach.
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