41st anniversary of finding Lucy: Why she is such a big deal (and today’s Google doodle)

Nov 24, 2015

By Rachael Larimore (Slate)

Today’s Google Doodle is a lovely animation celebrating the anniversary of the discovery of Lucy, a 3.18-million-year-old Australopithecus afarensis fossil at the Hadar research site in the Afar region of Ethiopia.

On Nov. 24, 1974, paleoanthropologist Donald Johanson and a student, Tom Gray, discovered a forearm bone on a walk back to their car after a long day of fossil hunting, a find that led to a two-week excavation and the discovery of hundreds of bones and fragments that made up 40 percent of a complete skeleton. They named it Lucy.

Since then, our knowledge of human evolution—and our family tree—has expanded greatly. We know of more than 20 different hominid species, including as many as eight in Lucy’s genus, Australopithecus. And yet, Lucy is still arguably the most famous specimen. Why?

At the time, Lucy was the most complete hominin fossil on record. It can be hard for casual observers to understand how scientists can announce a new species based on a skull, or even on a collection of jawbones, but Lucy could give us a real and easily comprehended glimpse into our past. She was the first to provide evidence that walking on two legs evolved before our larger brains.

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16 comments on “41st anniversary of finding Lucy: Why she is such a big deal (and today’s Google doodle)

  • op- On Nov. 24, 1974, paleoanthropologist Donald Johanson and a student, Tom Gray, discovered a forearm bone on a walk back to their car after a long day of fossil hunting, a find that led to a two-week excavation and the discovery of hundreds of bones and fragments that made up 40 percent of a complete skeleton. They named it Lucy.

    Lots of new finds have expanded on this since, showing that the genus Homo was quite diverse and extensive.

    http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/08/malapa-fossils/lineage-graphic

    There have been various hypotheses about the precise ancestry as new discoveries have been made.



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  • I believe there are about fourteen now. The most recent several years ago. Before that was the Homofloresiensis. I had a younger neighbor in his thirties tell me there were NO prehuman fossils.
    I asked him if he ever heard of Lucy. He said no. He went to public school and it was an obvious cover for his god complex.
    I learned something that day. They don’t want to know. They don’t want the truth. They want their comfort blanket to keep them stupid.
    I wish I had more patience. I’ll pray to Dog tonight.



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  • The Creationists will be frothing at the mouth over this report that a baboon vertebra has been found mixed in with Lucy’s bones.

    “Mike pointed out that one of the [vertebra] fragments, which no one, including me, had really paid close attention to, looked fairly small to fit with the rest of Lucy’s vertebral column,” says Williams.

    “Baboons were a close match, both in shape and size,” says Williams. “So we think we’ve solved this mystery. It seems that a fossil gelada baboon thoracic vertebra washed or was otherwise transported in the mix of Lucy’s remains.

    https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn27325-baboon-bone-found-in-famous-lucy-skeleton/?utm_source=NSNS&utm_medium=SOC&utm_campaign=twitter&cmpid=SOC|NSNS|2014-GLOBAL-twitter



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  • You would be so lucky to be wrapped in God’s blanket. Those are apes, plain and simple. Scientists want so bad to believe we come from apes. Just because they walked upright means nothing. Lucy is just a plain ape and her face made to look as human as possible when you have no clue what the face looked like. Personally, I think, you left off the facial hair to prove the human factor. Hahaha We were created in God’s image and he certainly was not an ape! Most everything has been scientifically proven in the bible. YOU, sir, don’t want to know or believe.



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  • Given your comments are supported by faith, and no actually supporting evidence, what you have written is just an assertion. And an assertion is not evidence of anything.

    Now your god is perfect in every way. Not a sparrow falls etc. He can do no wrong. He designed us in his image, and since he is perfect, we therefore are perfect. You agree of course because that’s what you have written above.

    Why then do you have wisdom teeth, that erupt in late teens. What was god thinking when he gave us wisdom teeth. Before dentistry, they could be lethal with impaction and infection. Excruciating agony. How many good christians did god kill as a result. Given you believe “everything has been scientifically proven in the bible. “ I invite you to explain gods wisdom in give us wisdom teeth. If you fail to respond or fail to provide a cogent explanation, I think I can safely press the Ignore Button.

    And this is an oxymoron.

    YOU, sir, don’t want to know or believe.

    The very purpose of belonging to a discussion forum like this that involves Reason and Science, is that we want to know everything. On the other hand, if your only source is religious material, then it is impossible for you to “Know or Believe” anything else, because you refuse to look elsewhere.



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  • Once an ape, always an ape. Just like humans that are born with deformities, so are apes! It is apparent to me that Lucy and the other upward walking apes were a fluke at birth and were even chastised by other apes for being different!



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  • Funny you bring up wisdom teeth! I never had any wisdom teeth come in. I dont have an answer as to why some get them, some get just a couple, or all four causing the pain they do. I believe wisdom teeth had a purpose at one time when there was no dentistry. After rotten molars were gone wisdom teeth popped in as a backup and with no molar to crowd, they came in perfect. That’s my assumption, not fact. I am not going to explain the bible to someone obviously intelligent enough to comprehend the written word. I challenge you to read the bible in its entirety, as you have scientific books. It shouldn’t be a hard challenge. If you don’t care to, that’s on you. There have been many discoveries dating back 2,000 years which back up the happenings written in the bible.



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  • Janie Brewer

    I challenge you to read the bible in its entirety, as you have scientific books. It shouldn’t be a hard challenge.

    Plenty of the regulars here have already read the Bible, possibly for years that they were forced to attend Church and Sunday school. There is no challenge with reading the words on the page as it’s written on a childish level. What we have a “hard challenge” with is the unending stream of cruelty, injustice, sexism, racism, slavery, gay hating, child abuse…on and on. That’s the challenge; trying to figure out how seemingly nice people read that book and think it’s a model for morality.



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  • That you for responding Janie.

    Before we took up the western diet, our teeth were very good. When the wisdom teeth erupted, they were so far back on the jaw that they push the molars out of alignment, and they partially break through the skin, which leaves very sore open wounds, that often get infected and become septic.

    There is good science to support this explanation. During our evolution, our jaws were much larger because our diet required us to chew large amounts of vegetable matter. With three sets of molars, this worked well. Look at modern chimps and gorillas, our nearest ancestors all have the 3 molar model. Also, Lucy above actively used her wisdom teeth. As we evolved, our diet changed and our jaws receded. My evidence is the fossil record, which now that we have discovered that massive cave full of hominid fossils in South Africa, gives us an almost complete lineage of our descent from a common ancestor with the chimps around 8 million years ago.

    As our jaws shrank, the room for the extra set of molars became smaller and smaller, until today, when it can cause serious medical harm to have your wisdom teeth erupt in a jaw too small for them. Because evolution doesn’t discard previous advances, we are stuck with wisdom teeth.

    If god designed us, and he is perfect, then what was he thinking when he gave us wisdom teeth. They are an obvious defect. There are around 200 obvious defects in the design of humans, that no smart or perfect designer would do.

    A couple of quick ones. The nerve that supplies your larynx, runs from the vertebrae adjacent to the larynx, all the way down to your chest, around your aorta, then back up into your neck and joins the larynx. Why? ‘Because in fish, that same nerve that comes out of cervical vertebrae 4, went to one of the gills and behind the heart, which in a fish is adjacent to the gills. As we evolved and our heart moved to the chest, the nerve just kept on stretching to keep the connection. In a Giraffe, the nerve is nearly 6 metres long.

    Why do you kidneys remove nearly 1.5 kilograms of salt from your blood, then put it all back, minus a few grams. Because fish need fresh water and the kidneys removed the salt. Why are the nerves that feed off your retina on the light side, and not behind. They block your vision. Obvious design defects. Why only one pipe for wind and food, with all of the choking hazards. And why is 7% of your DNA made up of dormant virus, some going back millions of years. One virus in particular codes for the protein that allows material to cross the placental barrier, and dates back around 60 million years. A chance infection of a dinosaur that survived, made it possible for placental mammals to evolve.

    As to the bible, I have read it. Was religious. Got asked to leave because the priest could no longer answer my questions. It can be shown that all of the major religious books contain so many errors, corrections, rewrites, editorial amendments contradictions and down right brutal and venal bastardry, that they are obviously the work of men. Humans wrote all of the religious books. If a perfect god had written them, they would be perfect, which they are not. Ergo. God didn’t write them.

    Stick around. Others will reply but they’re mostly in the northern hemisphere asleep. I am curious as to how you came to this web page and decided to make a post. Are you curious about how rational evidence based people think. Do you have doubts.



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  • Janie. Can I recommend reading the Selfish Gene by Dawkins. You might have to read it in secret but it explains all you need to know about evolution. And, and this is very important, it is supported by evidence, something the bible doesn’t have.



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  • Janie Brewer
    Nov 28, 2015 at 9:13 pm

    Once an ape, always an ape. Just like humans that are born with deformities, so are apes!

    That is the nature of evolutionary changes from inheritable genetic mutations. – Hence the change to the more upright ape in human ancestry.

    Many “deformities” are disabling, so die out, but occasionally one turns out to be beneficial, and with the new improved adaptation its numbers increase.

    Once an ape, always an ape.

    Yep! Humans are still apes!



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  • Janie Brewer
    Nov 28, 2015 at 9:25 pm

    I am not going to explain the bible to someone obviously intelligent enough to comprehend the written word.

    Perhaps it does not occur to you that many HAVE read “THE BIBLE”, https://www.richarddawkins.net/2015/01/how-can-a-made-up-bible-still-be-gods-word/#li-comment-168939
    . . . . along with the associated pre-Old Testament HISTORY of Yahweh and Asherah, and Bishop Athenasius of Alexandria doing a spot of gospel editing to choose his Roman favoured 4, in the 4th Century.

    I challenge you to read the bible in its entirety, as you have scientific books. It shouldn’t be a hard challenge.

    I challenge you to read some history and some science books, so you can understand the origins of the Bible and the origins of the Solar-System and life on Earth.
    Of course this level of understanding, is a rather harder challenge, than uncritically believing chosen versions of ancient stories.



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  • Janie Brewer
    Nov 28, 2015 at 8:54 pm

    Most everything has been scientifically proven in the bible.

    I don’t know which science and history illiterate told you that, but it is obvious they had no understanding of scientific or historical research!

    YOU, sir, don’t want to know or believe.

    I do KNOW due to making the effort to investigate, but belief without evidence, or in the face of contra-evidence is pure wish thinking, based on a lack of study.



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  • alf1200
    Nov 24, 2015 at 7:26 pm

    I believe there are about fourteen now. The most recent several years ago. Before that was the Homofloresiensis.

    Here is a Smithsonian article:-

    http://humanorigins.si.edu/evidence/human-fossils/species/homo-floresiensis

    Year of Discovery: 2003
    History of Discovery:

    A joint Indonesian-Australian research team found LB-1—a nearly complete female skeleton of a tiny human that lived about 18,000 years ago—in Liang Bua cave on the island of Flores, Indonesia. The skeleton’s unique traits such as its small body and brain size led scientists to assign the skeleton to a new species, Homo floresiensis, named after the island on which it was discovered.

    Since the initial find, bones and teeth representing as many as 12 H. floresiensis individuals have been recovered at Liang Bua—the only site where H. floresiensis has been found so far. The bulk of the finds related to H. floresiensis date between 95,000 and 17,000 years ago.
    Height:
    106 cm (3 ft 6 in) – estimate from a female skeleton
    Weight:
    30 kg (66 lbs) – estimate from a female skeleton

    This female’s head, like the rest of her body, was unusually small. Her brain was about a third the size of ours, but her species made and used stone tools, and hunted a variety of animals. The small body size of Homo floresiensis may have helped the species survive on an island with limited resources.



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