Science

Human Fossil Lucy's Mysterious Death Unraveled by X-ray

By Jiran , Aug 30, 2016 04:19 AM EDT
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John Kappelman, along with orthopedic surgeon Stephen Pearce and other researchers, examined Lucy's fossil and described how she might have gotten those cracks in her bones. Meanwhile, Arizona State University's Donald Johanson rejected their claim.

Lucy's Deadly Fall

Kappelman described the injuries that Lucy sustained such as those in her right ankle, left knee, pelvis, first rib and right humerus. The fossils that were examined are only 40 percent of her body. The abovementioned damages are akin to someone who fell. He said, "I think the injuries were so severe that she probably died very rapidly after the fall." Furthermore, the most significant injury that she incurred is on her right arm. According to TIME, this might be the reason why Kappelman suggested that it might be a result of Lucy's fall from a tree.

Other Scientists Disagree

According to The Guardian, Arizona State University's Donald Johanson refuted Kappelman. He held that the cracks they found on Lucy are not any different from what are typically seen on fossils. "We don't know how long the fossilization process takes, but the enormous set of forces placed on the bones during the build-up of sediments covering the bones is a significant factor in promoting damage and breakage," he added.

Paleoanthropologist Tim White from the University of California at Berkeley also agreed that those cracks are only the usual fossil damage. He clarified, "If paleontologists were to apply the same logic and assertion to the many mammals whose fossilized bones have been distorted by geological forces, we would have everything from gazelles to hippos, rhinos, and elephants climbing and falling from high trees," he said. 

Who is Lucy?

Lucy is part of the species Australopithecus afarensis. She was discovered in 1974 by Johanson and his student in northern Ethiopia. Her bones have been fossilized for 3.2 million years. It was displayed at the Houston Museum of Natural Science on Aug. 28, 2007.

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