Lucy Goosey

Houston Museum of Natural ScienceOK…HEEERE’S LUCY!

Now I’m not a scientist nor do I play one on TV..:)  But there is signficant disagreement within the scientific community of what kind of animal this skeleton represents.  The major point that I want to make is that with SO many legitimate concerns about this archealogical find, it’s hard to understand how this should be such a bone of contention. HAHAHAHA – I crack myself up.

So, here’s an incomplete list of issues with this find. I’m going to try to not hypothesize on this post, just list the issues.

1.) from theEncyclopædia Britannica fossil nickname for a remarkably complete (40 percent intact) hominin skeleton found by Donald Johanson at Hadar, Eth., on Nov. 24, 1974, and dated to 3.2 million years ago. The specimen is usually classified as Australopithecus afarensis and suggests—by having long arms, short legs, an apelike chest and jaw, and a small brain but a relatively humanlike pelvis—that bipedal locomotion preceded the development of a larger (more humanlike) brain in hominin evolution. Lucy stood about 3 feet 7 inches (109 cm) tall and weighed about 60 pounds (27 kg).

2.) While 40% of a skeleton seems like a good amount, almost half of the the fossil bone fragments were rib cage pieces.  All bones are not of equal value in piecing together the accurate original form.

3.) More Rib Info: (shape of the rib fossils found)

I noticed that the ribs were more round in cross-section, more like what you see in apes. Human ribs are flatter in cross-section. But the shape of the rib cage itself was the biggest surprise of all. The human rib cage is barrel shaped, and I just couldn’t get Lucy’s ribs to fit this kind of shape. But I could get them to make a conical-shaped rib cage, like what you see in apes (as quoted in Leakey and Lewin, 1992, pp. 193-194).

4.) Skull Fragments – Johanson admits the skull size and brain cavity were chimpanzee-like and make another reference to the smaller pelvis structure (rebuilt somewhat subjectively) conformed to the notion of a smaller skull size – here’s the quote:

Lucy’s wider sacrum and shallower pelvis gave her a smaller, kidney-shaped birth canal, compared to that of modern females. She didn’t need a large one because her newborn infant’s brain wouldn’t have been any larger than a chimpanzee infant’s brain (Johanson, et al., 1994, p. 66).

5.) More discoveries about the skull:

In 1994, Fred Spoor, Bernard Wood and Frans Zonneveld, all specialists on anatomy, reached a similar conclusion through a totally different method. This method was based on the comparative analysis of the semi-circular canals in the inner ear of humans and apes which provided for sustaining balance. There were some concrete differences between the canals of humans, who walked upright, and apes, that walked bent over. The inner ear canals of all the australopithecines, and, what is more, all the Homo habilis specimens, examined by Spoor, Wood and Zonneveld were identical to those of apes of our day.

5.) Pelvis structure: Johanson claims that Lucy is a “she” but other scientists believe the pelvis was reconstructed incorrectly and indicates it was a “he”.  Why this matters, is the pelvis and knee fragments found are what are leveraged to propel Lucy into the bipedal category.  Meaning if the pelvis and knee fragments were not interpreted correctly then the claim of bipedalism falls flat on it’s face. (the jokes are just too easy – forgive me) BTW Lucy is AL 288-1

Contrary to Sts 14 [designation for a specific A. africanus fossil—BH/BT], delivery [of a baby—BH/BT] in AL 288-1 would have been more complicated than in modern humans, if not impossible, due to the protruding promontorium…. Consequently, there is more evidence to suggest that AL 288-1 was male rather than female. A female of the same species as AL 288-1 would have had a pelvis with a larger sagittal diameter and a less protruding sacral promontorium…. Overall, the broader pelvis and the more laterally oriented iliac blades of AL 288-1 would produce more favourable insertion sites for the climbing muscles in more heavily built males….

6.) It’s all in the wrist – right?

Brian Richmond and David Strait of George Washington University experienced what many might call a “eureka!” moment while going through some old papers on primate physiology at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. “We saw something that talked about special knuckle walking adaptations in modern African apes,” Dr. Richmond said. “I could not remember ever seeing anything about wrists in fossil hominids…Across the hall was a cast of the famous fossil Lucy. We ran across and looked at it and bingo, it was clear as night and day” (see BBC News, 2000).

The March 29, 2000 San Diego Union Tribune reported:

 A chance discovery made by looking at a cast of the bones of “Lucy,” the most famous fossil of Australopithecus afarensis, shows her wrist is stiff, like a chimpanzee’s, Brian Richmond and David Strait of George Washington University in Washington, D.C., reported. This suggests that her ancestors walked on their knuckles (Fox, 2000).

Summary excerpt:

Science writer Tim Friend in an article published in USA Today:

“Lucy’s scientific name is Australopithecus afarensis. She looked very similar to a modern bonobo chimpanzee, with a small brain, a protruding face and large molar teeth. But Lucy has been losing favor over the past 10 years as the direct ancestor of the genus homo… most say they now believe that the idea of tracing humans in a straight line back to an ancestor such as Lucy is too simplistic.

OK – LONG POST – sorry…There is actually quite a bit more information out there and yes, I have selected the info that highlights the problems with using this fossil find to push evolution, but there are actually more problems such as the number of bones found in the same area as Lucy and how they chose/discarded which ones to include as part of this specimen.  Johanson appears to admit quite a bit of bias in making his finds fit his theories.  Also there are other evolutionary biologists that have already dismissed this find as a chimpanzee species. 

We should just do some research before we accept what we read.  There are many blogs where folks are going at it hammer and tongs -which I don’t want to do.  I just want to present some information all in one spot that represents why Lucy has some very real drawbacks as conclusive evidence of evolution and don’t take all those recreations in the museums as correct.

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