Paleoanthropologists have found the fossilized remains of a baby Australopithecus afarensis, the ancient human ancestor most famously represented by the Lucy fossil. The 3.3-million-year-old partial skeleton turned up at a site called Dikika in Ethiopia's Afar region, a few kilometers from where Lucy herself was discovered. Largely encased in sandstone when it was found, the skeleton—believed to be that of a three-year-old female—is the earliest juvenile yet found. It preserves elements previously unknown for a species of such antiquity, including both shoulder blades and a small bone called the hyoid, which anchors the throat muscles. Analysis of the bones has revealed a number of apelike characteristics that lend tentative support to the notion that afarensis, though fully capable of upright walking, also spent time in the trees, where it may have sought food or evening refuge. The findings appear in the September 21 Nature.
This article was originally published with the title "Lucy's Baby" in Scientific American 295, 5, 37 (November 2006)