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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Google doodle on - Lucy the Australopithecus

As I opened my homepage today – this Google doodle greeted me – and I thought it something related to Darwin and his theory of evolution.

Charles Robert Darwin, [1809 – 1882) was an English naturalist and geologist, best known for his contributions to evolutionary theory. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestors, and in a joint publication with Alfred Russel Wallace introduced his scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection, in which the struggle for existence has a similar effect to the artificial selection involved in selective breeding. Darwin published his theory of evolution with compelling evidence in his 1859 book On the Origin of Species, overcoming scientific rejection of earlier concepts of transmutation of species.

But this is no Darwin’s……. but - Lucy the Australopithecus -  and Google is celebrating the 41st  anniversary of the discovery of a pile of bones by paleoanthropologists working in Ethiopia ! Confusing !! – the  pile of bones belonged to a skeleton that would shine some light on the way in which our species evolved from tree dwelling apes to the tall statured and intelligent human beings we are today.

41 years ago, a team of archaeologists working in Ethiopia discovered the remnants of an ancient skeleton that became a vital missing piece in the puzzle of how humans came to be. Nicknamed "Lucy", the skeleton was dated at 3.2 million years old - the oldest known example of a bipedal primate and a crucial stepping stone between apes and homo sapiens.  Nowadays, Lucy's bones are kept in a museum in Ethiopia, although they spent six years touring the US from 2008 to 2013. Barack Obama visited the fossil on a trip to Africa earlier this year, and was permitted to touch it, something usually reserved for scientists.

The Afar Triangle (also called the Afar Depression) is a geological depression caused by the Afar Triple Junction, which is part of the Great Rift Valley in East Africa. The region has disclosed fossil specimens of the very earliest hominins, that is, the earliest of the human clade; and it is thought by some paleontologists to be the cradle of the evolution of humans; and it is here - Lucy is the common name of AL 288-1, several hundred pieces of bone fossils representing 40 percent of the skeleton of a female of the hominin species Australopithecus afarensis was found. Lucy was discovered in 1974 near the village Hadar in the Awash Valley of the Afar Triangle in Ethiopia by paleoanthropologist Donald Johanson.

Usually, for the arduous practice of paleoanthropology in the field, only few fossils and fragments of fossils are collected, and only rarely are skulls or ribs uncovered intact. But the Lucy "find" was extraordinary for the large fraction of the skeleton recovered and the significant amount of new information it provided, and for its age.

"Lucy" acquired her name from the song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" by the Beatles, which was played loudly and repeatedly in the expedition camp all evening after the excavation team's first day of work on the recovery site. After public announcement of the discovery, Lucy captured much public interest, becoming almost a household name at the time. Beginning in 2007, the fossil assembly and associated artifacts were exhibited publicly in an extended six-year tour of the United States; the exhibition was called Lucy’s Legacy: The Hidden Treasures of Ethiopia. Lucy became famous in the US and around the world, and was returned to Ethiopia in 2013.

Today  on  24th  November 2015, Google honoured the 41st anniversary of the discovery with a Google Doodle on their homepage.  Although Lucy had many of the characteristics of chimpanzees, such as long arms and a protruding belly, the skeleton showed that she primarily walked upright, the earliest example of such a primate. Bipedalism is seen as one of the key distinctions between the Homo genus and Pan, the family of chimpanzee species. Before her discovery, scientists had speculated that bipedalism came alongside the development of larger brains, but Lucy's was barely larger than those of chimpanzees.

Scientists believe Lucy was 3.7 feet tall and 29 kgs in weight. Although she walked upright, she was quite small in size compared to humans. Her skeletal remains are now kept in a National Museum in Ethiopia’s Addis Ababa and her plastic replica is kept in the public for tourists to observe.

With regards – S.Sampathkumar

24th Nov. 2015.

1 comment:

  1. Lucy had many similarities with chimpanzees, the skeleton showed that she primarily walked upright.
    Bipedalism is seen as one of the key distinctions between Homo sapiens and chimpanzees.
    'Lucy' was the first Australopithecus afarensis skeleton ever found, though her remains are only about 40 percent. See the doodle video for more reference https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vinHUMRF0Pw&list=PLK2ccNIJVPpAlYHL7UaTP5uUs6eux28ZG

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