Was Lucy a male?

Jim Foley (jimf@vangelis.FtCollins.NCR.com)
28 Nov 1995 22:12:15 GMT

Here's an article someone posted to a mailing list I read. If true, it
will cause quite a bit of rethinking. I admit to being somewhat

Africa's Eve is found to be an Adam

By Graeme O'Neill


LUCY, the most celebrated of all hominid fossils, is actually a male,
scientists announced this week after 25 years of research.

Lucy's pelvic bones are far too small to accommodate a baby. And
their orientation would have made it impossible for a baby to turn the
corner from the uterus and line up with the home straight.

Even in modern women, this sharp angle between the uterus and birth
canal can make birth a tricky and painful affair.

"Lucy is simply not built for giving birth," said Swiss anatomists Dr
Martin Hausler and Dr Peter Schmid in the latest edition of the
Journal of Human Evolution.

It seems the African Eve, celebrated worldwide as the archetypal Dawn
Mother, is actually an Adam 3.2 million years old.

It is a quarter century since American scientist Donald Johansen and
his French colleague Maurice Taieb discovered the remarkably preserved
fossil skeleton in Ethiopia. It is of a small, short-legged hominid.

The fossil is the oldest species of the proto- human genus
Australopithecus- the finders named it Australopithecus afarensis and
nick- named it Lucy after the character in a Beatles' song, Lucy In
The Sky With Diamonds.

Lucy's skeleton was about two-thirds complete - against the odds, the
body was overlooked by scavenging hyenas and lions and was buried
rapidly by volcanic ash in the Great Rift Valley before the elements
could disperse the bones.

Even some of the tiny bones from the hands and fingers were preserved
but the right half of the pelvis was missing.

The left side of the pelvis and part of the sacroiliac, which anchors
the spinal column, was enough to tell anatomists that Lucy was no
recent fugitive from the rainforests of east Africa, which were in
retreat as the climate cooled and became drier.

The legs were short in proportion to the trunk and the pelvis was
relatively narrow. The femurs-the major bones in the top of the
legs- projected almost straight down from their pelvic sockets,
rather than angling in under the body's centre of gravity.

But they didn't splay outwards, in the manner of a chimpanzee or

The evidence was clear-Lucy-had walked upright. "Waddled" may be
closer to the mark - the pelvic anatomy was not designed for the
curving hips and fluid stride of latter- day great-granddaughters on a
Paris catwalk.

A widely published artist's impression of Lucy depicts the creature as
dark-skinned and hairy with a protruding, ape-like face, large breasts
(an evolutionary innovation in humans) and with a baby balanced on the
right hip.

But even for a prototype, whose architecture had yet to be refined and
broadened to create a birth canal large enough to accommodate one of
the boof-headed, large-brained babies of homo sapiens descendants,
Lucy's pelvis seemed to be strangely shaped.

For a quarter of a century anatomists have debated various mirror-
image reconstructions of Lucy's incomplete pelvis and come to
different conclusions.

The pelvis is one of the most critical structures in human evolution.
Not only is it crucial to an upright stance, as the fulcrum for the
spine and legs; its lower bones and pubis, dictate the maximum size
of the head and brain of any newborn baby.

An enormous brain and head, in relation to body size, is the defining
characteristic of modern human beings.

Earlier research which showed measurements of Lucy's pelvic dimensions
were unreliable because after millions of years the pelvis had become
skewed. In their new reconstruction, Dr Hausler and Dr Schmid
corrected for this distortion, then compared Lucy's pelvic
architecture with that of one of the more recent descendants, a
specimen of Australopithecus africanus from Sterkfontein Cave in South
Africa, designated by the serial number S14.

Lucy, designated by the serial number AL-288-I, is separated from S14
by almost the length of a continent and by several hundred thousand
years of evolution.

The interval was long enough for S14's species to develop the largest
brain of any australopithecine around 580cc, compared with Lucy's
350cc brain.

Dr Hausler and Dr Schmid say that in non-human primates, including
chimpanzees and gorillas, the brain of newborns is about 42 per cent
the capacity of the adult brain.

But in newborn humans, it is only 29 per cent of the average adult
capacity of about one litre-roughly 290cc. Much of the growth in a
modern human baby's brain is delayed until after birth. This is why
the bones in a human baby's skull remain open for several years after

This innovation, unique to humans, allows the adult human brain to
become very large without exposing homo sapiens babies to the fatal
prospect of being jammed inside the pelvis at birth. It still happens
before caesarean births, natural selection ensured neither mother nor
baby survived to pass on the trait.

The Swiss researchers now propose that Lucy be renamed Lucifer, after
the Roman god who brought light to the world after a long, dark night.

(O'Neill G., "Africa's Eve is found to be an Adam", Sunday Times:
Western Australia, 12 November 1995, p62)

Jim (Chris) Foley, jim.foley@symbios.com
Assoc. Prof. of Omphalic Envy Research interest:
Department of Anthropology Primitive hominids
University of Ediacara (Australopithecus creationistii)