Lucy home after 5-year US tour

first_imgMalapa Hominin 1 (left), Lucy (centre) and Malapa Hominin 2 (right), showing the difference in height between A. sediba and A. afarensis. (Image: Lee Berger, Wits University) A reconstruction of what Lucy might have looked like, by award-winning palaeoartist Elisabeth Daynes.(Image: Atelier Daynes) The Hadar region in Ethiopia, where Lucy was found. Family tree showing the existing hominoids: humans (genus Homo), chimpanzees and bonobos (genus Pan), gorillas (genus Gorilla), orangutans (genus Pongo), and gibbons (four genera of the family Hylobatidae: Hylobates, Hoolock, Nomascus, and Symphalangus). All except gibbons are hominids.(Images: Wikipedia) MEDIA CONTACTS • National Museum of Ethiopia  +251 11 111 7150 RELATED ARTICLES • New fox species found at Malapa • A new boost for an old science • SA unearths new human ancestor • Fossils tell the mammal story • Maropeng top evotourism destinationJanine ErasmusEthiopia’s grand old lady Lucy – the 3.2-million-year-old fossil discovered in 1974 – has come home after touring the US for the last five years. Her return was enthusiastically celebrated by her compatriots, who consider her an icon of human evolution.Lucy is a specimen of the hominid species Australopithecus afarensis, which walked the earth between 3.9-million and 2.9-million years ago. South Africa’s A. sediba, which lived about two-million years ago, is thought to possibly be a link between Lucy’s species and our own.Taxonomically, hominids, or Hominidae, belong to a family of primates, which include four living genera, namely humans; gorillas; orangutans; and chimpanzees and bonobos. Australopithecus is one of the extinct genera in the family. One of the notable characteristics of the family is the ability to walk upright.Fossils belonging to A. afarensis have only ever been found in North Africa, and Lucy is no exception – she was unearthed at Hadar, a village in the Awash Valley in Ethiopia’s Afar Triangle. This is the origin of her species name. She is also known by her catalogue name of AL 288-1, signifying Afar Locality, the site’s number, and the first fossil discovered there.This region is known for its wealth of archaeological finds; they include the Gawis cranium, most of the top of the skull of what scientists believe to be a human ancestor from the Middle Pleistocene period (about 781-thousand to 126-thousand years ago). It also encompasses the Gona river, where stone tools dating back 2.6-million years were found between 1992 and 1994.Throwing off Ethiopia’s negative imageThe US trip marked the first time that Lucy, known locally as Dinknesh (“special” or “wonderful” in Amharic), had left her home country. Before the jet-setting fossil went abroad, she had been stored in a special vault at the National Museum in Addis Ababa.The tour was titled Lucy’s Legacy: The Hidden Treasures of Ethiopia, and it featured over 140 other cultural and religious artefacts, both ancient and modern.Although she was accompanied by a team of scientists and security personnel, there was some opposition to the initiative, mainly because of fear that Lucy would be damaged. One of the objectors was National Museum researcher Berhane Asfaw, who was quoted as saying that he was the first to object and even though she’s returned he still is not convinced it was necessary to send Lucy away.The tour took in 11 US cities, including Houston, Seattle, New York, and Austin.A portion of the tour’s proceeds, said to be around US$1.5-million (R14.3-million), was allocated to the museum to help it upgrade its research facilities. The tour was also aimed at raising Ethiopia’s profile as a tourism and science destination.Breakthrough discoveryLucy was discovered on 24 November 1974 by US paleoanthropologist Donald Johansen and graduate student Tom Gray, while the two were mapping the area. A white bone caught their attention, and one glance told them it was a hominid ulna – a bone from the forearm. Investigating further, they found more fragments, and eventually managed to collect 40% of the skeleton, including a lower jaw, skull and pelvis. Because none of the bones and bone fragments were duplicated, the team realised they had come across the remains of a single person.Her informal name comes from the famous Beatles’ song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, played over and over by the team during their celebrations just after the find.She is thought to be a female because of the width of her pelvic opening, and because her size is consistent with the trend seen at Hadar of males being bigger and females being smaller – Lucy is a little lady. While alive she stood about 105cm tall and weighed just 29kg. Physically, she looked similar to a chimpanzee, with an ape-sized brain too.Although her species was able to live in trees, Lucy’s petite skeleton also shows evidence that she walked upright – her knee cap has a prominent lip which prevents it from slipping out of position as weight shifts from leg to leg during walking, and the surfaces of her knee joint are adapted to the extra weight they need to carry in the upright position. Also, Lucy’s pelvis and vertebrae show typical adaptations, such as a spinal curve, needed to cope with a permanent upright stance.Her humerus (upper arm) to femur (upper leg) ratio is 84.6%, a figure obtained by dividing the length of the humerus by the length of the femur and multiplying by 100. In contrast, this figure is 97.8% for chimps, indicating long arms for climbing trees, and 71.8% for modern humans. Lucy’s dimensions indicate that either her legs were lengthening, or her arms were getting shorter, or both.The researchers are of the opinion that Lucy was a vegetarian. They found no clues as to the manner of her death, as her bones showed no signs of damage from scavengers. Lucy was already an adult when she died, because her cranial bones had fused and her wisdom teeth – the third pair of molars – had emerged and were slightly worn.According to Johansen, Lucy is important not because she’s the oldest or best-preserved fossil – she is neither – but because her species is located on the human family tree at a “pivotal point”. At that time there was a split leading to the development of two branches – one leading to the human genus Homo, and one that died out.Until just a few years ago Lucy was the oldest hominid fossil known. The discovery in 1994 of Ardi, a female of the early human-like species Ardipithecus ramidus, eclipsed even Lucy, as the newcomer was estimated to be about 4.4-million years old.last_img read more

Boxing offers a way out of a life of crime

first_imgThe African Youth Boxing Club in Khayelitsha needs your help to keep youngsters off the streets. (Image: Lead SA)Township life has its harsh realities and those who have experienced them should try to uplift those youngsters who are at risk of being sucked into a life of crime, violence and drugs – Thembani “Terror” Gqeku, a former professional boxer, is that person.Gqeku runs the African Youth Boxing Club in Khayelitsha, which he established in 2011 to get more youngsters off the streets. He was driven to open his boxing club after he saw two youngsters trying to stab each other.Khayelitsha is a partially informal township in Western Cape, located on the Cape Flats in Cape Town. The name is isiXhosa for “new home”. It is reputed to be the largest and fastest-growing township in South Africa.“I was looking out of the window and saw two boys fighting with knives and I thought, ‘No, this is not right. Two people should not be fighting like this,’” Gqeku said.Gqeku is playing his part to develop his community and improve skills of those youngsters with whom he works. In his way, in his area, he is working to achieve the goals of the National Development Plan or Vision 2030.DISCIPLINEAlthough all townships have a reputation for violence and the youngsters need to know how to protect themselves, this is not the only thing they learn at the African Youth Boxing Club. “It teaches the youngsters discipline, style… how to survive in life and how to protect themselves,” said Gqeku.He took up boxing when he was just nine years old. It gave him a reason not to smoke, drink, or hang out with gangsters, as do so many other young boys in the township.Gqeku trains a total of 38 children, mostly boys, and aged seven to 15. Training happens six days a week but the schedule is informal. Children start arriving at 3pm and the class starts once enough children are at the gym.“If I get the boys into boxing, I get them out of crime… The boys who train with me, they think twice before committing crimes.”GYM DREAMSGqeku, who is unemployed and has five children of his own, runs the gym for free. “I’d love to have a kit for them,” he said. “My dream is that they can walk in the street and everyone will see that they are from African Youth Boxing Club.”Another need was for essential boxing equipment such as gum guards, boxing gloves, headgear and funds for the boxers to enter tournaments, he said. “When I think of all the challenges, I could cry but these are my boys and I will do anything for them.”He is not alone in his quest. South African township gyms have a long history of creating national and international boxing champions.Gqeku was named Lead SA’s Hero of the Month in September 2014. You can contact Lead SA if you would like to help African Youth Boxing Club.last_img read more

Floods Hit Ag Businesses Hard

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest By Todd NeeleyDTN Staff ReporterOMAHA (DTN) — While historic floodwaters that ravaged northeast and north-central Nebraska and parts of Iowa are receding, agricultural operations continue to struggle to return to normal.Ethanol plants and feedlots, in particular, continue to have trouble shipping ethanol and sourcing feedstocks, as many rail lines across the region continue to be down and highways in shambles.Tom Feller, president and CEO of Feller and Company Cattle Feeder that operates along the Elkhorn River in Wisner, Nebraska, said his feedlots are battling higher transportation costs as they work to repair a key roadway into their property.“Our bridge road south of Wisner is out,” he said. “South of Wisner is home to about 70,000 cattle. We have cattle on both sides of the Elkhorn River, which causes us added expense of $500 per day to go 22 miles around through Pilger with feed.“All our employees’ drive time is greater also. We do have a back road out of our feedlot, so we are bringing corn, hay, etc. in a back driveway. We are hauling the dirt into the bridge approaches from the feedlot, so hopefully this week we can get bridge open and back to normal,” he said.Mike Drinnin, owner and manager of Drinnin Feedlots Inc. in Columbus and Drinnin West Cattle Company in Palmer, said damaged highways into Columbus continue to cause problems for his operation.“To ship cattle from our Palmer yard to Cargill (Schuyler, Nebraska) adds at least $250 per load to delivery costs,” he said.“Byproduct that we normally source out of ADM (Archer Daniels Midland) Columbus has to come out of Aurora, (Nebraska), and with the extra miles to get to Columbus, adds at least $15 per ton to the cost delivered. Rail lines need to be fixed west of Columbus, and Highway 30 from west into Columbus needs to have extensive repair.”The Nebraska Department of Transportation and the railroad have been “working day and night to get things moving,” Drinnin said.J.P. Rhea, feedyard manager for Rhea Cattle Company in Arlington, said with the ADM Columbus and other ethanol plants down in the area, his operation has had difficulty sourcing distillers grain.ADM LOSSESADM has taken a major financial hit in the first quarter as a result of flood-related damage.ADM said in a news statement on Monday it has sustained tens of millions of dollars in losses.“We continue to assess the situation and utilize our transportation and operating network as much as possible to meet customer needs,” ADM said. “Taken together, we expect these severe-weather disruptions to have a negative pre-tax operating profit impact to ADM of $50 million to $60 million for the first quarter.“In March, powerful snow and rain storms early in the month and resulting flooding and its aftereffects are affecting both carbohydrates solutions and origination operations. Rail transportation has been disrupted throughout the region; our corn processing complex in Columbus, Nebraska, was idled due to flooding and currently is running at reduced rates; and unfavorable river conditions since December are severely limiting barge transportation movements and port activities.”PLANTS REMAIN DISRUPTEDAccording to the Nebraska Ethanol Board, infrastructure damage continues to significantly affect ethanol plants’ operations.Five plants are dealing with major rail disruptions, the NEB said. If the plants aren’t able to ship their products out, they are forced to shut down.“Some plants are supplementing by trucking, but it’s much more expensive and you can’t move near as much product as a railroad, or as fast to maintain full production capacity,” said Sarah Caswell, NEB executive director.Four ethanol plants continue to run at reduced capacity as a result of power outages and lack of rail access. In addition, two plants are in scheduled maintenance this week and one is beginning maintenance next week. One additional plant is considering starting early maintenance because of disruption to rail service.Troy Bredenkamp, executive director of Renewable Fuels Nebraska, told DTN following Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts’ agriculture flood roundtable in Lincoln on Monday that it may be another two to three weeks before rail service is repaired.About 20% of the nation’s ethanol production has been affected by the flooding, he said.“So they’re trying to look at something maybe more mid- to long-term that could help them to get over this hump to get that product out,” Bredenkamp said.“Obviously, your only other alternative is truck, and you guys know the situation with the highway system. It’s a double whammy for them in terms of being able to move ethanol product out. Where that really becomes a problem is, obviously, you don’t want to idle a plant if you don’t have to, but also, if we’re not making ethanol, we’re not making distillers grains.”DISTILLER GRAIN DIFFICULTIESNebraska ethanol plants are having more acute issues in being able to meet distillers grain contract needs for feedlots.“So we’ve actually had some plants that are out of the disaster area who have been converting their dry mill, or their dry finished product, to a more-modified wet distillers just so they can make it available to the local market, and hopefully it will alleviate some of this production that’s not taking place right now because of the floods,” he said.The ADM ethanol plant that sits along a main line in Columbus has seen its rail loop flooded.Bredenkamp said railcars that had water above the axels will need the axels replaced.“So now you’re talking about literally thousands of axel systems that will have to be replaced for those train cars to be able to go back into production,” he said.“It’s kind of insult to injury. A lot of those cars are privately owned by the ethanol plants, so there’s a lot of moving parts to be able to get this thing back up and running.”Repairs to rail lines are ongoing, he said, but railroad companies are having to do things as “efficiently as possible” as well with fewer employees.“I think there’s been a decrease in personnel over time, it’s real hard to bring that personnel back in a time like this when you need as many people who know how to reset a rail as possible, and they’re just not around anymore,” Bredenkamp said.“And you’ve had catastrophic conditions along the Platte River; there’s nothing holding up that rail except the two ends, and it’s a very sad situation. And until we can get that back, it’s going to be hard for us to get back to 100% power on the ethanol side. Especially at a time when ethanol is actually starting to turn a corner and get a little better price wise. It probably couldn’t have hit at a worse time for Nebraska’s ethanol plant situation.”IOWA CONDITIONSMonte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, said biofuel producers in Iowa have been virtually unscathed.“We have not done a comprehensive survey,” he said, “but last word we had was that no plants in Iowa flooded. Several had to reduce run rates to align with [their] ability to source corn, which was degraded by flooded roads for farmers or flooded farmer grain storage, and to align with slower rail car return times.”The Sioux City Journal in Iowa on Monday reported eight northwest Iowa animal feeding operators have reported flood-related manure discharges since March 1.Todd Neeley can be reached at [email protected] him on Twitter @toddneeleyDTN(ES/AG)© Copyright 2019 DTN/The Progressive Farmer. All rights reserved.last_img read more

H.P. avalanche: another soldier’s body recovered

first_imgThe body of one more Army jawan, who had gone missing last month following an avalanche in Himachal Pradesh’s Kinnaur district, was recovered on Saturday, an official said.Nitin Rana (27) and five other jawans of the 7 Jammu and Kashmir Rifles were buried under the avalanche at Shipki La near the Indo-China border on February 20. Rana’s body was recovered on Saturday, while his mobile phone was recovered a few days ago, a district official said. His body was taken to Pooh from where it would be sent to his native place at Rit village in Jaisinghpur tehsil of Kangra district, he said. Earlier, bodies of three jawans were recovered, whereas two are still missing. Havaldar Rakesh Kumar’s body was recovered on the day of the avalanche, whereas bodies of Rifleman Rajesh Rishi and Rifleman Govind Bahadur Chhetri were recovered on March 2 and 4 respectively. About 400 personnel and several residents of Khab village are involved in the search operation.last_img read more

Close Shave

first_imgLasith MalingaPakistan pace legends Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis are relieved. When Sri Lankan pacer Lasith Malinga, who demolished Kenya with a career best 6-38, said he had learnt his skills by watching the duo’s devastating armoury of yorkers, Akram and Younis were happy thanking their stars. Imagine if he said something like this after doing to Pakistan what he did to Kenya. Fortunately, Malinga did not play against Pakistan.last_img