One of these vertebrae does not belong to Lucy (Image: Dave Einsel/Getty)
One of these vertebrae does not belong to Lucy (Image: Dave Einsel/Getty)

Well this is kind of embarrassing but inconsequential… Gary Sawyer and Mike Smith at the AMNH began a reconstruction of Lucy with help from Scott Williams from NYU and noticed that one of the vertebra fragments is smaller than the other!

A comparative study to other animal’s vertebrae show that it more closely resembles a baboon’s vertebrae.  This analysis will be presented at a meeting of the Paleoanthropology Society in San Francisco next week. The researchers confirm that the other 88 fossil fragments belonging to Lucy’s skeleton are correctly identified. And the mislabelled baboon bone fragment doesn’t undermine Lucy’s important place in the evolution of our lineage…. But how did this mistake persist since 1974?

There may be a simple reason no one noticed that Lucy’s remains included a baboon bone fragment… We just don’t study vertebrae enough.

4 thoughts on “One of Lucy’s Vertebrae is a Baboon’s?

  1. ‘… the mislabelled baboon bone fragment doesn’t undermine Lucy’s important place in the evolution of our lineage …’
    Lucy’s place in our lineage? or in the lineage of one of the African apes? Are all Plio-Pleistocene australopithecine fossils closer relatives of Homo than of Pan or Gorilla?
    Fossil-hunter have ‘discovered’ 1000s of fossils of ‘human ancestors’ (‘Missing Links’), but virtually 0 fossils of ancestral chimps or gorillas. Very remarkable.
    A number of anthropologists, however, independently, don’t follow this ‘official’ conventional interpretation. My Hum.Evol.papers (e.g. 1996 ‘Morphological Distance between Australopithecine, Human and Ape Skulls’ HE 11:35-41, 1994 ‘Australopithecines: Ancestors of the African Apes?’ HE 9:121-139) suggest that Australopithecus & Paranthropus are paraphyletic: East-African australopiths & South-African ones seem to have evolved in parallel from gracile (Pliocene) to robust (Pleistocene), possibly in response to Pleistocene cooling & drying (Ice Ages).
    In fact, AFAIK australopiths lack all uniquely-human features, e.g. very large brain, external nose, very long legs etc., and all their human-like features are not derived-human, but primitive-homin(o)id, e.g. thick enamel, rel.small canines,vertical spine, low iliac blades, valgus knees, adducted big toes etc. The so-called ‘bipedal’ features of australopiths must not be explained by humanlike bipedality, but rather suggest vertical climbing & branch-hanging (cf Lucy’s curved phalanges) & bipedal wading in the wetlands where their fossils lay, and where they collected e.g. floating & waterside vegetation, not unlike (but more frequently than) lowland gorillas who wade for sedges & frogbit in forest bais (google e.g. gorilla bai).
    My hypothesis on Plio-Pleistocene hominids FWIW (see my HE papers):
    – E.Africa: genus Gorilla (subgenus Praeanthropus) afarensis, aethiopicus, boisei, ?anamensis, ?garhi, ?bahrelghazali…
    – S.Africa: Pan (subgenus Australopithecus) africanus, sediba, crassidens, robustus, ?habilis…
    – Pleistocene dispersal along African & Eurasian coasts & rivers: Homo (Homo) ?habilis, ?rudolfensis, georgicus, modjokertensis, erectus, ergaster, antecessor, heidelbergensis, neanderthalensis, floresiensis, sapiens… (google e.g. resarchGate marc verhaegen).

  2. Fossils are just remains of organisms that lived long ago. Therefore, only a creature can produce its own kind. For instance, birds can produce birds, and apes can produce apes.

  3. Funny that the commentors don’t partake of the meat of the article … preaching their own scripture, not what the bones say, not listening to Kambiz “There may be a simple reason no one noticed that Lucy’s remains included a baboon bone fragment… We just don’t study vertebrae enough.”

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