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Lucy's weighty stare.

Lucy's weighty stature

Members of the evolutionary family that includes modern humans, collectively known as hominids, underwent radical changes in body build with the appearance of the Homo lineage, says Leslie C. Aiello of University College in London, England. Australopithecines, exemplified by the 3.5-million-year-old partial skeleton dubbed Lucy, weighed nearly twice what would be expected for their height based on the ratio of stature to weight in modern Homo sapiens and earlier Homo species, Aiello asserts.

Consider Lucy, an adult member of the earliest known hominid species, Australopithecus afarensis. She stood an estimated 3-1/2 feet falla and weighed about 66 pounds. An average British youngster today reaches Lucy's height at 4-1/2 years of age but weighs only about 38 pounds, Aiello says. Four years later, the same child reaches Lucy's weight but stands almost a foot taller than the ancient hominid.

Lucy and other australopithecines were built much like African apes living today, Aiello contends. Many reconstructions of Lucy's appearance underestimate both her girth and the extent to which her ribcage was funnel-shaped, as in moddern apes, Aiello points out.

With the ascendance of the Homo lineage around 1.6 million years ago, stature increased dramatically in relation to body weight, she maintains. The average ratio of height to weight is remarkably consistent in living human groups, and Neanderthals also fell within the upper limits of the modern human range, according to Aiello.
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Title Annotation:human evolution
Author:Bower, Bruce
Publication:Science News
Date:Apr 21, 1990
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