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On 24 November 1974, palaeoanthropologist Donald Johanson was exploring the ravines and valleys of the Hadar river in the Afar region of northeastern Ethiopia when he spotted an arm bone fragment poking out of a slope.
Johanson later recounted that his pulse quickened as he realised it belonged not to a monkey but a hominin.
Only after analysing other fossils subsequently uncovered nearby and at Laetoli in Kenya did scientists establish a new species, Australopithecus afarensis, four years after Lucy's discovery. afarensis was the oldest hominin species known, although far older species have since been found.
© James St John [CC BY 2.0], from Flickr The small skull, long arms and conical ribcage were like an ape's, while the spine, pelvis and knees were more human-like. afarensis adults weighed an estimated 25 kilograms, while the largest weighed about 64 kilograms.
None of the bones were duplicates, supporting the conclusion that they came from a single individual.
The shape of the pelvic bones revealed the individual was female.
Replicas are on display in the Museum's Human Evolution gallery, alongside the skull of Kenyanthropus platyops, another hominin species that lived in East Africa during the same period.
The ability to walk upright may have offered survival benefits, such as the ability to spot dangerous predators earlier.
The researchers believe the injuries observed were severe enough that internal organs could also have been damaged.