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Early hominin Lucy had powerful arms from years of tree-climbing

Early hominin Lucy had powerful arms from years of tree-climbing

New Scientist

Image: Emmjae

Lucy, the world famous early bipedal hominin, was a swinger. Scans of her skeleton confirm that she had an exceptionally powerful upper body, thanks to spending a lot of time climbing trees.

The research is being hailed as the final word on Lucy’s lifestyle, and means that moving in trees may have remained important to some early human ancestors for millions of years after they developed the ability to walk on the ground.

A member of the species Australopithecus afarensis, Lucy had long chimp-like arms and fingers – features that would seem ideal if her life involved a great deal of tree-climbing.

But her legs and human-like feet show she was what researchers call a “terrestrial biped” – she could walk in a human-like manner. So Lucy’s chimp-like arms might simply be features she inherited from a tree-climbing ancestor but no longer really used.

“The degree to which australopiths were arboreal has been the subject of a lot of to-and-fro debate over the last 30 years,” says William Harcourt-Smith at the City University of New York.

Christopher Ruff at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, and his colleagues may have finally settled the debate. Read more on…