Fall from a tree may have caused death of 'Lucy' the famed fossil

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...

New Fossil Autopsy Believes 'Lucy' Fell From Tree

AUSTIN, Texas, Aug 29 (Reuters) - Lucy, one of the best known ancestors of humans to ever roam the earth, may have died after a fall from a tree, University of Texas researchers said on Monday after studying her 3.18-million-year-old fossilized remains.

A high resolution X-ray CT (computed tomography) study of Lucy, a female hominid, indicates she suffered fractures to her right humerus not typically seen in fossils. There were also less severe fractures on the left shoulder and other compressive fractures throughout the skeleton, they said.

SEE ALSO: Indonesian man claiming to be 145-years-old says he wants to die

Ancestor Lucy died from falling from tree​​​​​
The injuries were consistent with those "caused by a fall from considerable height when the conscious victim stretched out an arm in an attempt to break the fall," according to the research from John Kappelman, a University of Texas anthropology and geological sciences professor, who consulted with Stephen Pearce, an orthopedic surgeon at Austin Bone and Joint Clinic.

"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," Kappelman said in a statement.

Lucy's skeleton was unearthed in 1974 in Ethiopia and since then researchers around the world have been looking at the fossil of the hominid to find its links to modern humans.

Kappelman speculated Lucy, who was about 3 feet, 6 inches (107 cms) in height, foraged and sought nightly refuge in trees. Her injuries indicate she fell from a height of about of more than 40 feet (12 meters).

University of Texas researchers, including Kappelman, in 2009 completed the first high resolution CT scan of Lucy when the fossil toured the United States. The study resulted in some 35,000 CT electronic slices, which were then studied by university researchers.

"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." (Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by David Gregorio)

Learn more about 'Lucy'
14 PHOTOS
'Lucy' the famed fossil
See Gallery
'Lucy' the famed fossil
Dr. Zeresenay Alemseged Lemseged (2ndR), of the California Academy of Sciences, directs U.S. President Barack Obama (R) to touch a fossilized vertebra of Lucy, an early human, before a State Dinner in Obama's honor at the National Palace in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia July 27, 2015. Lucy is the most famous fossil of the species Australopithecus afarensis, and was found in Ethiopia in 1974. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
A group of Spanish tourists view a replica and reconstruction of the remains of a more than 3-million-year-old female hominid known as "Lucy" at the National Museum in Addis Ababa, August 7, 2007. Ethiopians worried on Tuesday that the fragile bones of their world-famous skeleton -- the remains of a more than 3-million-year-old female hominid known as "Lucy" -- may not survive a six year U.S. tour. REUTERS/Barry Malone (ETHIOPIA)
Dr. Zeresenay Alemseged Lemseged (C), of the California Academy of Sciences, laughs at a quip by U.S. President Barack Obama (2ndR) as he and Ethiopia's Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn (R) look at the bones of Lucy, an early human, before a State Dinner in Obama's honor at the National Palace in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia July 27, 2015. Lucy is the most famous fossil of the species Australopithecus afarensis, and was found in Ethiopia in 1974. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Picture shows a reconstructed replica skeleton of what a more than 3-million-year-old female hominid known as "Lucy" might have looked like at the National Museum in Addis Ababa, August 7, 2007. Ethiopians worried on Tuesday that the fragile bones of their world-famous skeleton may not survive a six year U.S. tour. REUTERS/Barry Malone (ETHIOPIA)
Picture shows a replica of the remains of a more than 3-million-year-old female hominid known as "Lucy" at the National Museum in Addis Ababa August 7, 2007. Ethiopians worried on Tuesday that the fragile bones of their world-famous skeleton may not survive a six year U.S. tour. REUTERS/Barry Malone (ETHIOPIA)
A representative model of the skeleton 'Lucy' at the opening of the new permanent exhibition at the National Museum of Ethiopia featuring Lucy the 3.4 million year old fossil on December 3, 2014. Lucy returned to Ethiopia in May 2013 after a six year tour of US museums. AFP Photo/ Zacharias Abubeker (Photo credit should read ZACHARIAS ABUBEKER/AFP/Getty Images)
Maurice Taieb, Geologist and Leader of the exhibition to find Lucy, remarks at the opening of the new permanent exhibition at the National Museum of Ethiopia featuring Lucy the 3.4 million year old fossil on December 3, 2014. Lucy returned to Ethiopia in May 2013 after a six year tour of US museums. AFP Photo/ Zacharias Abubeker (Photo credit should read ZACHARIAS ABUBEKER/AFP/Getty Images)
Jean-Renaud Boisserie, Chairman of the Exhibition Scientific Committee, gives a tour to patrons of the National Museum of Ethiopia at the opening of the new permanent exhibition at the National Museum of Ethiopia featuring Lucy the 3.4 million year old fossil on December 3, 2014. Lucy returned to Ethiopia in May 2013 after a six year tour of US museums. AFP Photo/ Zacharias Abubeker (Photo credit should read ZACHARIAS ABUBEKER/AFP/Getty Images)
3.2 million year-old fossil 'Lucy' is unveiled at Addis Ababa's National Museum on May 7, 2013. The fossil, discovered in 1974 in Ethiopia's Harar region, has returned home after a five-year tour of the U.S. It is the first time the skeleton has been on display in Ethiopia since 2000, and will be part of a temporary exhibition until May 13 before she is stored for research. Lucy is no longer the oldest-known member of the human family tree, but with 40 percent of her skeleton recovered, she is the oldest, most complete specimen of an early human species, standing about 3 feet, 6 inches tall and weighing approximately 60 pounds. She is named Lucy after the well-known Beatles tune, which her discoverers were listening to the day she was found. AFP PHOTO / JENNY VAUGHAN (Photo credit should read JENNY VAUGHAN/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 29: Houston Museum of Natural Science employees, from left, Jeff Luna, Vanessa Garcia and Becky Gutierrez view a replica of the skull of Lucy, the 3.2 million-year-old member of the Australopithecus afarensis species, during a tour of the exhibit for museum employees in Houston, Texas, Wednesday, August, 29, 2007. The Houston Museum of Natural Science worked six years to bring the fossil bones of a hominid known as Lucy to town, and it's drawing flak for its efforts. (Photo by Craig Hartley/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
HOUSTON - AUGUST 28: A sculptor's rendering of the hominid Australopithecus afarensis is displayed as part of an exhibition that includes the 3.2 million year old fossilized remains of 'Lucy', the most complete example of the species, at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, August 28, 2007 in Houston, Texas. The exhibition is the first for the fossil outside of Ethiopia and has generated criticism among the museum community and others that believe the fossil is too fragile to be moved from it's home country. (Photo by Dave Einsel/Getty Images)
HOUSTON - AUGUST 28: 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, August 28, 2007 in Houston, Texas. The exhibition is the first for the fossil outside of Ethiopia and has generated criticism among the museum community and others that believe the fossil is too fragile to be moved from it's home country. (Photo by Dave Einsel/Getty Images)
HOUSTON - AUGUST 28: A sculptor's rendering of the hominid Australopithecus afarensis is displayed as part of an exhibition that includes the 3.2 million year old fossilized remains of 'Lucy', the most complete example of the species, at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, August 28, 2007 in Houston, Texas. The exhibition is the first for the fossil outside of Ethiopia and has generated criticism among the museum community and others that believe the fossil is too fragile to be moved from it's home country. (Photo by Dave Einsel/Getty Images)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

Read Full Story

People are Reading