Google has come up with a doodle today to celebrate the 41st anniversary of a historical find by paleoanthropologists working in Ethiopia—the bones of Lucy, the first female hominid.
Her bones first showed proof how the humans evolved from being apes who lived on trees to the intelligent human species who are tall and walk upright.
She was named ‘Lucy’, inspired by the song Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds by Beatles. The new hominid species made itself known through a few hundred pieces of fossilized bone, which made up a large part of the skeleton. According to carbon dating, they were 3.2 million years old. Skeletons this old were mostly too incomplete or damaged. So, scientists were able to find a lot of information regarding human evolution because the bones were almost intact.
They named the species Australopithecus afarensis.
Lucy’s spine curvature and knee structure were the most important characteristics of her bone structure, which suggested she walked upright– a characteristic attributed to humans.
Lucy stood at 1.1 metres tall and weighed 27 kilograms; this was the adult size for her species. Scientists suggested that her face structure and facial features could be similar to a gorilla. Much like an ape, her skull was small. Compared to her legs, her arms were longer, but not as much as a chimpanzee’s.
She was initially thought to have had a plant-based diet, as suggested to researchers by her cone-shaped rib and the muscular structure of her jaw. But later in 2010, it became known through further findings that the Australopithecus afarensis species cooked, cut and ate meat. They were the first of their kind to take up this process.
The biggest mystery about Lucy’s bones is that her cause of death couldn’t be understood. From studying her teeth degradation, scientists stated that she was a mature, yet young female. So, old age couldn’t have been the cause of her death.
However, on her pubic bone is a tooth mark of a carnivore. Whether it contributed to the cause of death or whether the animal bit her body after her death is not clear.
Lucy’s skeleton is currently quite close to where her bones were discovered. She lies in the National Museum of Ethiopia in Addis Ababa, locked up in a safe, while a plaster replica is on exhibit. She has even toured the United States between 2007 and 2013, even though it was feared that the journey might damage her.
The Google Doodle today is an animation of the famous ‘March of Progress’, an illustration which shows the evolution of man from apes. As a find which showed the key of our evolution today, Lucy has been put in the middle of the evolutionary process in the doodle.