Quirks and Quarks

How Lucy died

A researcher believes he has pieced together the puzzle of a very famous death
A 2007 photo shows a three-dimensional model of the early human ancestor, Australopithecus afarensis, known as Lucy, on display at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. A new study based on an analysis of Lucy's fossil by the University of Texas at Austin suggests she died after falling from a tree. (Pat Sullivan/Associated Press)

Lucy is one of the most iconic fossil skeletons in the world. Found 42 years ago in the Afar region of Ethiopia, every aspect of this fossil has long intrigued researchers. Part of that fascination stems from the fact that she occupies an important branch of the human evolutionary tree. Now, Dr. John Kappelman, a professor of Anthropology and Geological Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin, believes he has solved a long-standing mystery: how Lucy met her end. Dr. Kappelman and his researchers scanned Lucy's bones and based on those scans, determined that her bones show evidence of a fall from a height. After a process of elimination, he thinks it only makes sense that it was a tree from which she fell.

Related Links: 

See Lucy's bones

New York Times article on Lucy's fall 

Science Magazine story on Lucy's death