When Lucy the famous australopithecine was on the way over to partake in a multi-city tour around the U.S.—her first ever sojourn outside of Ethiopia—scientists thought moving the 3.2-million-year-old hominid was senseless because traveling would injure her bones. Now that she’s finally here, lounging in Seattle’s Pacific Science Center, hardly anyone’s coming to see her.
One researcher who isn’t complaining about Lucy’s journey is John Kappelman, a University of Texas anthropologist—Lucy’s 10-day layover in his Austin-based lab gave him the chance to grab the first high-resolution CT scans of her.
At the High-Resolution X-ray Computed Tomography Facility, Kappelman placed all 80 bones onto “custom-built foam mounts” to hold them in place. Then he proceeded to run each of the bones through the high-energy X-ray scanner, working around the clock to scan all of Lucy’s bones to capture the microscopic details of her skeleton. The scans will help researchers answer some questions regarding Lucy’s lifestyle: Some think her bones—such as her long arms and curved toes and fingers—suggest she and her family spent time in trees, but others think the bones were just inherited from her tree-climbing ancestors, and that she spent more time on the ground. Kappelman will soon make his digital archive available to other researchers to search for the answers to figure out this period in pre-human history.
You can see Lucy too: Kappelman created a public Lucy Web site based on his detailed scan. And now that the pics are freely available online, will anyone get away with charging to see her live?
Image: flickr/ MashGet