Did Fall From Tree Kill Famous Human Ancestor Lucy? | NBC Bay Area
National & International News
The day’s top national and international news

Did Fall From Tree Kill Famous Human Ancestor Lucy?

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    Dave Einsel/Getty Images
    Visitors view the 3.2 million year old fossilized remains of "Lucy", the most complete example of the hominid Australopithecus afarensis, at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

    Scientists have long wondered how Lucy, the famous human ancestor, died.  Thanks to researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, we may now have an answer.

    "Lucy, a 3.18-million-year-old specimen of Australopithecus afarensis - or "southern ape of Afar" - is among the oldest, most complete skeletons of any adult, erect-walking human ancestor," UT said in a news release Monday.

    Her partial skeleton was found in 1974; research indicates she was a young adult when she died millions of years ago.

    Now a new analysis of her fossil bones suggests a possible answer as to what led to her premature death -- the upright-walking Lucy probably died after falling from a tree.

    Video Shows Officer Rescue Baby Deer From Storm Drain

    [NATL-DFW] Caught on Video: Officer Saves Deer From Storm Drain

    A New Jersey police officer is credited with rescuing three deer in the past year. He is now affectionately known as "The Deer Whisperer," and his latest rescue was caught on camera. The cute baby deer was trapped in a storm drain. Officer Timothy Majek, a 22 year veteran of the Woodbridge Police Department, quickly came to the rescue. Majek, a self-professed animal lover, jumped into the drain and lifted the fawn to safety. 

    (Published 2 hours ago)

    "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," said lead author John Kappelman, a UT Austin anthropology and geological sciences professor.

    Kappelman took 35,000 CT slices to create a digital archive of Lucy's remains. While studying the slides, he noticed something unusual.

    "The end of the right humerus was fractured in a manner not normally seen in fossils, preserving a series of sharp, clean breaks with tiny bone fragments and slivers still in place," the university said in a news release.

    "This compressive fracture results when the hand hits the ground during a fall, impacting the elements of the shoulder against one another to create a unique signature on the humerus," said Kappelman, who consulted Dr. Stephen Pearce, an orthopedic surgeon at Austin Bone and Joint Clinic, using a modern human-scale, 3-D printed model of Lucy.

    Multiple Arrests Made in Manchester Bombing

    [NATL] Multiple Arrests Made in Manchester Bombing

    British police have arrested seven people and Libyan authorities arrested the suspected suicide bomber’s brother and father, in connection to the attack at Manchester Arena after an Ariana Grande concert.

    (Published Wednesday, May 24, 2017)

    According to the study, Pearce confirmed, "The injury was consistent with a four-part proximal humerus fracture, caused by a fall from considerable height when the conscious victim stretched out an arm in an attempt to break the fall."

    Similar, but less severe, fractures were also found in the shoulder, ankle, knee, pelvis and ribs. No evidence of any healing was found, indicating the injury may have caused Lucy's death.

    Tokyo 2020 Olympic Stadium Design Revealed

    [NATL] Tokyo 2020 Olympic Stadium Design Revealed

    The latest design for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Stadium has been revealed. Architect Kengo Kuma emphasized harmony with nature in the centerpiece of the 2020 Summer Games.

    (Published Wednesday, May 24, 2017)

    Kappelman theorized that Lucy fell from a tree, from a height of more than 40 feet, and that she was likely in the tree foraging or seeking refuge at night.

    "Kappelman hypothesized that she landed feet-first before bracing herself with her arms when falling forward, and 'death followed swiftly,'" the university said, quoting Kappelman.

    New 'Soundwave' Tattoos Can Talk, Play Music

    [NATL] New 'Soundwave' Tattoos Can Talk, Play Music

    What if tattoos could talk? That's what Nate Siggard, CEO and founder of Skin Motion, is trying to do with his soundwave tattoo app. It works like this: users can upload sounds and voices to the app, creating a waveform of the audio. They can print out these waveforms and have them turned into tattoos. They can point their mobile phone or tablet device at the tattoo and use the app to play back the sound.

    (Published 16 minutes ago)

    "When the extent of Lucy's multiple injuries first came into focus, her image popped into my mind's eye, and I felt a jump of empathy across time and space," Kappelman said. "Lucy was no longer simply a box of bones but in death became a real individual: a small, broken body lying helpless at the bottom of a tree."

    Still, some scientists, including Lucy's discoverer, disagree with UT's finding. They contend the cracks in Lucy's bones came after her death. The disagreement highlights the difficulty of pinpointing a cause of death from fossilized remains.

    The new study was published Monday in the journal Nature and was led by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin.