Australopithecus afarensis (Lucy)

Afarensis reconstruction. Disregarding the human-like eyes (which are artistic licence), it looks very ape-like.

Afarensis reconstruction. Disregarding the human-like eyes (which are artistic licence), it looks very ape-like.
Image from Wikimedia Commons user, ‘1997’

What Exactly is Australopithecus afarensis?

Australopithecus afarensis (also known as ‘Lucy’) is one of the most well-known transitional fossils in the human-ape lineage. Its features are typically ape-like and it possessed the necessary features for climbing trees.[1] The shoulder blade (scapula) was directed much more skywards than it is in humans [2], and would have been ‘valuable if the arm were held overhead much of the time, as it is when climbing and hanging in trees’.[3]

The finger and toe bones are curved similar to those seen in chimpanzees and the fingers ‘indicate adaptation for suspensory and climbing activities which require powerful grasping abilities. … There is no evidence that any extant primate has long, curved, heavily muscled hands and feet for any purpose other than to meet the demands of full or part-time arboreal life.’[4] Susman and Stern also said: “She [afarensis]probably nested in the trees and lived like other monkeys.”[5]

Charles Oxnard performed a multivariate analysis on afarensis and concluded that it is truly unique:

“The various australopithecines are, indeed, more different from both African apes and humans in most features than these latter are from each other.”[6]

Afarensis skull—typically ape-like.

Afarensis skull—typically ape-like.
Image from Wikimedia Commons user, ‘Pbuergler’

Why is it Transitional?

So what is it that makes afarensis so special? It is told that afarensis was capable of walking upright (is bipedal). However, the posture of afarensis can be interpreted to be anything from modern human-like to chimpanzee-like.[7] One scientist said (emphasis added):

“Prevailing views of Lucy’s posture are almost impossible to reconcile. When one looks at the reconstruction proposed by Lovejoy (1998) and by Weaver et al. (1985), one gets the impression that her fleshed reconstruction would be the body of a perfectly modern human biped. … But when one looks at the preliminary reconstruction recently shown at the Smithsonian, one gets the impression of a chimpanzee awkwardly attempting to stand on its hindlimbs and about to fall on its frontlimbs (Lewin, 1988). In the latter, the implication is a “primitive” form of bipedality in the Hadar hominids. To resolve such differences, more anatomical (fossil) evidence is needed. The available data at present are open to widely different interpretations.”[8]

If the data can be interpreted so differently, how can we be sure that this animal is actually transitional? Why should we believe the common myth that afarensis is a leading ‘proof’ for evolution, when scientists don’t even interpret the data properly?

Even if it is eventually proven that afarensis walked upright, it would not be evidence for human evolution. Even apes living today walk upright from time to time. For afarensis to be evidence of human evolution, one would have to demonstrate that it was habitually bipedal—something which has not been shown for any animal except our own genus, Homo.


The evolutionists’ argument for the transitional status of afarensis is considerably weakened. The very feature for which it is considered transitional (bipedal locomotion) is highly speculative and open to widely different interpretations. Australopithecus afarensis was undoubtedly an ape, with no convincingsimilarities to humans at all.

Possible Responses

“The article said ‘Even apes living today walk upright from time to time’. This proves they are evolving too.”
If this is so, then the term ‘transitional’ becomes meaningless if it can describe living apes which have no observable relation to humans.


  1. Tattersall, I. and Schwartz, J.H., Extinct Humans, Westview Press, New York, p. 88, 2001; Leakey, R. and Lewin, R., Origins Reconsidered: In Search of What Makes us Human, Abacus, London, pp. 193–196, 1992. Back to text
  2. Stern, J.T. and Susman, R.L., “The locomotor anatomy of Australopithecus afarensis“,American J. Physical Anthropology 60:284–285, 1983. Back to text
  3. Cherfas, J., “Trees have made man upright”, New Scientist 97:172, 1983. Back to text
  4. Stern, J.T. and Susman, R.L., Reference 2, page 308. Back to text
  5. Stern, J.T. and Susman, R.L., Reference 2; Bible Science Newsletter, 1982, p. 4. Back to text
  6. Dr. Charles E. Oxnard, Fossils, Teeth and Sex–New perspective on Human Evolution(University of Washington Press, Seattle and London, 1987), p. 227. Back to text
  7. Peter Line, “Fossil Evidence for Alleged Apemen—Part 2: Non-Homo Hominids,” Journal of Creation 19(1):33–42, April 2005. Back to text
  8. Abitbol, M.M., “Lateral view of Australopithecus afarensis: primitive aspects of bipedal positional behavior in the earliest hominids”, J. Human Evolution 28:228, 1995. Back to text
Australopithecus robustus
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