Watercooler Ammo: "Lucy's baby"


A 3.3-million-year-old skull of a juvenile Australopithecus afarensis -- you know the species as "Lucy," the fine fossil specimen named after the Beatles' ode to LSD -- has been found in Ethiopia. Scientists are calling this one, which was probably about three years old at death, "Lucy's baby." Which reminded us: as you'll know if you read our magazine or our regular features on Neatorama, "[during] the 1952-53 season of 'I Love Lucy,' despite the star's stomach being about the size of the Superdome, censors prevented the show's writers from even once mentioning the word 'pregnant.'" Here are some slightly more relevant facts about the "new" baby Australopithecus afarensis:

  • The fossil is amazingly intact -- it includes the whole skull, the torso, and some parts of the arms and legs. (Lucy herself was also remarkably well-preserved, as you can see at the bottom of this post.)
  • One of the bones that remains, the hyoid, is a delicate horseshoe-shaped structure that offers clues as to what kind of sounds a species can make. It's been at the center of a debate about which human ancestors might have had rudimentary speech.
  • Scientists figured out how old "Lucy's baby" was when she died by looking at her dentition -- like modern human toddlers, she had some unerupted teeth.
  • Afarensis was one of the first human ancestors to walk upright on two legs. According to the BBC, there is also "considerable argument about whether the Dikika girl could also climb trees like an ape."

Now for the real question: What should "Lucy's baby" be named? Personally, we're going with "Linus."

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