Tuesday, April 7, 2020

"Lucy's Baby"

Environmental & Science Educattion
Biological Evolution
Edward Hessler

Our most famous ancestor, Lucy, lived some 3.2 million years ago (mya).  She both walked upright , spent time in trees, too, and had a larger brain than chimpanzees,.

Ann Gibbons,, a contributing correspondent for the jounal Science, just published an essay on "Lucy's Baby."  In a new study, this ancient toddler was found to have brains "organized less like those of humans and more like those of chimps."

This has been a long standing question

To the paleoanthropologists doing the study their findings "suggest the brains of our ancestors expanded before they reorganized in the ways that let us engage in more complex mental behaviors such as making tools and developing language. The remains also suggest Lucy's species had a relatively long childhood--similar to modern humans--and that they would have needed parenting longer than their chimp relatives."

"The study is based on skulls of only two juveniles and five adults," so some caution is required. Gibbons explains how the scientists did the research, including how their age was determined. It includes the latest technology and old fashioned counting of growth lines in teeth to determine age (one child was 2.4 years old) and time. Gibbons notes that researcher Phillip Gunz "spent 7 years doing the 3D reconstruction of the skull of Dikkika  (a child) and six other adult and juvenile members of the species."

And of course Lucy got her name from a Beatles song.

The essay by Gibbons contains a nifty video (3m 43s) on this study.

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