Recent studies have revealed that Lucy, our first biped ancestor still used her arms so as to swing from trees, effectively shooting down previous theories.
The Australopithecus afarensis or Lucy, as she is more commonly known, is a 3.2 million-years-old human ancestor fossil primate.
As she was discovered to be able to walk on two legs rather than four as it was most common then, the bipedalism placed Lucy at the edge of humanity.
Some scientists consider that our first biped ancestor may be the missing link between us and our as yet unknown predecessors.
However, Lucy and the rest of her Australopithecus relatives still raised a number of questions as there is still much data left to gather.
One of the most pressing questions was related to Lucy’s ability and use of her arms. By determining the exact degree and way in which the species used their arms, researchers could establish their degree of humanity.
The question is quite important on the evolutionary scale as scientists believed it could help us determine another detail about our origin.
As many were left wondering, a new study went to reveal that our first ancestor did, in fact, spend quite a lot of time swinging from trees.
The new study was carried out by a team of University of Texas at Austin researchers and it was led by a Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine paleontologist, Cristopher Ruff.
Research and the study’s results were published earlier this week in the PLOS ONE journal.
Ruff and the team of scientists decided to base their study on the actual bones of the fossil primate so as to establish its most likely activities.
Dr. Ruff went to explain that the genetics is not the only factor in determining the bones’ structure as their usage can leave quite telling marks.
As such, the team analyzed the fossil’s internal arm and legs structure and characteristics. They also went to compare them to present day humans and also chimpanzees.
Research suggested that Lucy was both a frequent walker and a frequent swinger. The scientists observed that the primate had quite strong arm bones.
Strong arm bones are a common, present day characteristic of tennis players or of people that rely on their arms so as to lift themselves up.
However, most people have a smaller arm strength as compared to their leg bones. This is not the case with present-day chimpanzees.
The aforementioned animals snack, swing, sleep, and shelter in trees. As such, the researchers determined that this must have also been the most probable explanation as to Lucy’s powerful upper arms.
New data including CT scan and cross-sectional data was used by the scientists so as to test and further confirm the theory.
This places our first biped ancestor as being both a tree swinger and an earth-walker.
Some scientists have remained quite neutral to the discovery as they have stated that it was a confirmation of previous studies.
At the same time, other researchers have placed a higher value on it. One such scientist claims that by simultaneously exhibiting both abilities, our first biped ancestor is the more important.
As such, she will better help reveal the reasons for our turn to walking on two legs.
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