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A New Study published this week indicated that Australopithecus afarensis [the species to which the well- known “Lucy” (Dinknesh) and “Selam” skeletons belong] lived more of an arboreal life than previously thought.
Australopithecus afarensis was an upright walking species, but for over four decades scientists have debated about just how much time they spent in the trees, making it one of the most debated issues in human evolution. The findings were published in the October 26 issue of the journal Science, jointly by Doctor David J. Green, an assistant professor of Anatomy at Midwestern University in Downers, Illinois, USA, and Doctor Zeresenay Alemseged of the California Academy of Sciences, based in San Francisco.
The report further detailed the extensive analysis the scientists it did on these rare bones, showing that this species spent part of its daily life climbing trees, in addition to walking on two feet when on the ground.
The report also said that the findings move scientists closer to answering the question of when our ancestors altogether abandoned the climbing of trees. The study suggests this behavior was abandoned much later than was previously thought.
Dr. Zeresenay, assisted by Kenyan lab technician Christopher Kiarie, spent 11 years carefully extracting the two shoulders blades from the rest of Selam’s skeleton, which were encased in a block of sandstone.
The lesser known Selam, found in Dikika, Ethiopia, is the skeleton of a three-year old girl who lived about 3.3 million years ago. It represents the most complete skeleton of its kind to date.
Green and Alemseged also found that, like living apes, the shoulder anatomy of juvenile and adult representatives of A. afarensis were quite similar.
Green further said human scapulae change shape throughout ontogeny in a significantly different manner than that of closely related apes.
[Ontogeny is the branch of biology concerned with the development of an individual organism or anatomical or behavioral feature from the earliest stage to maturity.]