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Human Evolution. Lucy: Australopithecus afarensis.

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Lucy, an Australopithecus afarensis, lived 3.2 million years ago

Perhaps the most famous fossil in paleontology is Lucy, a female of the hominid species Australopithecus afarensis. The remains represent 40% of the whole skeleton. The famous paleontologist Donald Johanson and his team found Lucy in Ethiopia in 1974. Her estimated age is around 3.2 million years.

The specimen found was named Lucy after the Beatles song, because the night of the discovery, the whole camp celebrated listening to “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” For the next 20 years, Lucy was the earliest hominid ever found.

Lucy is a female that must have died at age 20, measured just over a meter high and must have weighed around 64 pounds (29 kilos). She is tiny compared to humans, but her bones, including her hip, definitely show that she was bipedal.

Up to now, researchers have found 100 specimens of the same species.

Another spectacular discovery related to this hominid species was made by Mary Leakey in 1970 at Laetoli, Tanzania. She found the footprints left by three A. afarensis walking on volcanic ash after an eruption. When the rain covered the ashes, the footprints were preserved and fossilized. The gait of these three individuals leaves no doubt that they were bipedal. A. afarensis is considered to have been an ancestor species of the genus Homo, to which Homo sapiens belongs.

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