Open sourcing Lucy, the world’s most famous fossil
Forty years after she was discovered, Lucy, the world’s most famous fossil australopithecine, just might have a cause of death. In August of this year, a team of paleoanthropologists led by John Kappelman argued in Nature that Lucy died 3.2 million years ago by falling out of a tree. Their conclusion has been met with skepticism among fellow researchers, and Lucy's death-by-tree-fall hypothesis has generated no shortage of debate within the scientific community of paleoanthropology.
But there's a takeaway here that's more significant than the study’s conclusion—this study's approach to sharing data with the scientific community and the public at large. In a move that is in keeping with the growing trend across paleoanthropology and other sciences to open up access to data, the study’s scientists have published CT scans of Lucy’s tibia, femur, humerus, and scapula—all bones they analyzed in their study. Now, they invite colleagues, detractors, educators, and ardent fossil enthusiasts to download and print Lucy’s scans, encouraging audiences to “evaluate the hypothesis for themselves.”