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VOL.443 NO.7109 DATED 21 SEPTEMBER 2006
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Human evolution: 'Lucy's baby' found in remote Ethiopian outpost (pp; 296-301 &332-336; N&V)
Palaeontologists have made a stunning find in the Ethiopian desert — the fossil remains of a child from the primitive human species Australopithecus afarensis, of which the iconic fossil Lucy is a member. The skeleton, unveiled in this week's Nature, represents the first juvenile remains from this chapter of human evolution, making it the oldest child ever discovered.
The 3.3-million-year-old fossil, found at a research dig in Dikika, Ethiopia, was probably female and no more than 3 years old when she died. The skeleton's features support the theory that A. afarensis walked upright, but the surprisingly gorilla-like arms suggest that it might also have been skilled at swinging through the trees, report palaeontologists led by Zeresenay Alemseged.
The discovery was made in a region that already has a rich history of human fossil finds. Geological mapping, reported in an accompanying paper by Jonathan Wynn and colleagues, provides the first comprehensive physical map of the area, called the Hadar Formation, placing the discovery into its geological context.
Zeresenay Alemseged (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany)
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