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Did fall from tree kill famous human ancestor Lucy?

Marsha Miller/University of Texas at Austin via AP

The distal radius — a wrist bone — of Lucy, a fossil specimen of an early human ancestor, Australopithecus afarensis, undergoes a computed tomographic scanning at the university in Austin, Texas. A new study based on an analysis of Lucy's fossil by the university suggests she died after falling from a tree.


LOS ANGELES — Scientists have long wondered how Lucy, the famous human ancestor, died.

Now a new analysis of her fossil bones suggests a possible answer — the upright-walking Lucy probably died after falling from a tree.

Some scientists including Lucy's discoverer disagree. They contend the cracks in Lucy's bones came after her death. The disagreement highlights the difficulty of pinpointing a cause of death from fossilized remains.

Lucy was a member of an early human species that lived in Africa between about 4 million and 3 million years ago. Her partial skeleton was recovered in 1974.

Lucy was a young adult when she died.

The new study was published Monday in the journal Nature and was led by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin.


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