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3.2 million-year-old human ancestor 'Lucy' had massive leg muscles to stand up straight and climb trees

A sculptor's rendering of the hominid Australopithecus afarensis in an exhibition that included the 3.2 million-year-old fossilized remains of "Lucy."

A sculptor's rendering of the hominid Australopithecus afarensis in an exhibition that included the 3.2 million-year-old fossilized remains of "Lucy."© Dave Einsel via Getty Images

Our 3.2 million-year-old ancestor "Lucy" could stand and walk upright just like modern humans do, new 3D muscle modeling reveals.

The finding bolsters a growing consensus among researchers that Australopithecus afarensis — the extinct species to which Lucy belongs — walked erect rather than with a chimpanzee-like, crouching waddle. 

The hominin's reconstructed pelvis and leg muscles also suggest that she could climb trees, meaning the species likely thrived in both forest and grassland habitats in East Africa 3 million to 4 million years ago.

"Lucy's muscles suggest that she was as proficient at bipedalism as we are, while possibly also being at home in the trees," Ashleigh Wiseman, a research associate at the University of Cambridge's McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research in the U.K. who conducted the modeling study, said in a statement. "She would have been able to exploit both habitats effectively."

Lucy's fossils are the best-preserved Australopithecus remains ever unearthed, with 40% of her skeleton recovered from Ethiopia's Hadar region in the mid-1970s. Her bones indicate that she stood 3.4 feet (1 meter) tall and weighed between 29 and 93 pounds (13 to 42 kilograms). Her discovery pointed to the possibility that human ancestors could walk upright long before they evolved bigger brains. 

While soft tissue is not visible in the fossil record, scientists can piece together what the extinct species' muscles may have looked like by using modern humans (Homo sapiens) as analogs. Our bone structure and muscle attachments can inform how muscles were layered on Lucy's skeleton.

In a study published Wednesday (June 14) in the journal Royal Society Open Science, Wiseman used a digital modeling approach to recreate 36 muscles in each of Lucy's legs. 

The reconstruction shows that Lucy could straighten her knee joints and extend her hips in a similar way to modern humans, suggesting that the species could stand and walk upright.

The model also reveals the proportions of fat and muscle in Lucy's legs, showing they were far more muscular than a modern human's and similar in composition to a bonobo's (Pan paniscus). While a human thigh is about 50% muscle, Lucy's were likely 74% and less fatty. Some of her calf and thigh muscles occupied twice as much space in her legs as they do in human legs today. 

Lucy's knees demonstrated a wider range of motion in the extension-flexion axis than a human's. This, combined with her muscle mass, suggests that A. afarensis could utilize a wide range of habitats, from dense forests to grassy savannas. This type of locomotion is not seen in any modern animal, Wiseman said. "Lucy likely walked and moved in a way that we do not see in any living species today."

While the finding is based on an incomplete skeleton, and it remains unknown how often A. afarensis adopted an upright posture, the results of the analysis support the current consensus of Lucy's physical abilities. 

"The current paper is not a game changer in our thinking," said Fred Spoor, a professor and researcher at the Natural History Museum in the U.K., who was not involved in the research.

However, reconstructing the muscles is a novel and exciting method to confirm bipedalism, Spoor told Live Science in an email. "This approach is certainly promising," he said. "It goes beyond the sometimes somewhat simplistic interpretations of paleontologists when it comes to inferring what movements and locomotor pattern characterized an extinct species." 

Muscle modeling has already helped researchers gauge the walking speed of a Tyrannosaurus rex and could shed light on similar traits in archaic humans. "By applying similar techniques to ancestral humans, we want to reveal the spectrum of physical movement that propelled our evolution," Wiseman said.  

Story by Sascha Pare: Live Science:  


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Pioneering BBC journalist Stephen Grimason dies aged 67

Veteran BBC journalist Stephen Grimason has sadly died at the age of 67.

The former BBC Northern Ireland political editor passed away following a long battle with cancer. The news journalist was best known for breaking the news of the historic Good Friday A

 greement in April 1998. Stephen achieved a three- decade long career as a news journalist and went on to work for the Stormont administration as director of communications.

The presenter made no secret about his battle with the disease and even received well wishes from high profile names including the former Prime Minister Tony Blair. Stephen kick-started his career working at local newspapers such as the Lurgan Mail, the Ulster Star in Lisburn and Banbridge Chronicle, along with regional papers. And at the tender age of 27 he became the editor of the Banbridge Chronicle. Following a 12 year career in print journalism, he went on to apply for a role at the BBC in Northern Ireland.

Back in January, he spoke at Queen's University of the Troubles. In January 1992 an IRA bomb killed eight construction workers at Teebane, Co Tyrone, and he also addressed the killing of five people by loyalists at the Sean Graham bookmakers on the Ormeau Road in Belfast. 

BBC news presenter Stephen Grimason has died at the age of 67© Reach Publishing Services Limited

He said: "I was the first reporter at Teebane. In the end, I think that the big success of the peace process was that actually peace, or an imperfect version of it, did win through."And when Stephen broke the iconic news of the peace deal which helped put a stop to the troubles, he said at the time: "I have it in my hand." The presenter was described as a "brilliant political editor" by the former Northern Ireland presenter Noel Thompson, the BBC reported. 

Noel said: "He had the two most important attributes for the job. He loved the gossip - the inside track - and he loved to share it with the rest of us. His biggest scoop was of course getting hold of a copy of the Good Friday Agreement before any of the hundreds of other journalists camped out at Stormont. 'I have it in my hand' he told me live on air, with justifiable pride and excitement. It's one of the key journalistic moments of the last 30 or 40 years."

The acclaimed news presenter left the BBC to become Stormont's new director of communications until 2016. But it seems his health has been an issue. Back in 2022 he suffered a heart attack when his younger brother Darryl passed away. Darryl was also a BBC journalist.

Paying tribute to Stephen following the surprising news of his death, Adam Smyth, director of BBC Northern Ireland said: "Stephen Grimason possessed the special talents that only the very best editors and correspondents exhibit - the audience always came away from his broadcasts feeling they knew and understood the political landscape better, and they trusted what he had to say." 

He added: "Stephen's list of contacts and sources was so extensive he regularly seemed to be one step ahead of everyone else - including the politicians.His contribution to BBC Northern Ireland is deeply appreciated and we offer our sincerest condolences to Stephen's family."

And Ken Reid took to social media and wrote: "Stephen Grimason, my dear friend, has died. He showed enormous courage against the odds right to very end. In over 40 years of friendship and rivalry we never exchanged a cross word. Lucky to have spent time with him in his last days. Sleep well my friend." 

Story by Lucretia Munro: Mirror: 


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The Other Boleyn Girl review – the sexual strategising of the conniving Boleyn family brought sharply to life

Lightly sketched … James Corrigan, Lucy Phelps and Freya Mavor as the Boleyn siblings. Photograph: Stephen Cummiskey

Lightly sketched … James Corrigan, Lucy Phelps and Freya Mavor as the Boleyn siblings. Photograph: Stephen Cummiskey© Photograph: Stephen Cummiskey

Wife Number 2 to serial husband, King Henry VIII, first to be beheaded and a marital trigger for the Reformation, Anne Boleyn is without doubt a star of the Tudor age, her life and death finely documented.

What is lesser known is the place of her sister, Mary – the other Boleyn of the title – in Henry’s court, and his heart. She was the king’s mistress before Anne became his wife. Plucked from the footnotes of history by novelist Philippa Gregory, on whose book this adaptation by Mike Poulton is based, this fictionalised story has twice been made into a film, with Peter Morgan’s star-studded version offering a soft-focus portrait of the sisters.

How does this staging add to Mary’s legacy? It is hard to say. She stays a secondary force to the fierce, ambitious, more sharply drawn Anne for a little too long. In fact, the focus is less on the emotional dynamic between sisters for the most part, more on the ambitious strategising of the conniving Boleyn family who use Anne (Freya Mavor) and Mary (Lucy Phelps) as sexual pawns in their high stakes courtly manoeuvring.

Directed by Lucy Bailey, it is all feverish plot, action and exposition over character development and human drama in the first half.

The relationship between the Boleyn siblings, including brother George (James Corrigan), is lightly sketched and not always probing enough. The trio appear on stage in a cub-like heap at the start but we do not particularly feel the tenderness between them. “I’m not as meek as you,” Anne says to Mary, but the edges between them aren’t sharp enough until the final few scenes. Mary seems indistinct, athough she does eventually reveal her quietly radical power and agency. 

Charges of incest between Anne and George, which partly send her to the block, are hinted at with a kiss but nothing of more substance follows. What is acutely shown, though, is how the sisters refuse to be passive victims, sometimes colluding with the family’s plans, at other times attempting to assert their own will. George is as trapped as his sisters, forced into a strategic marriage.

Though these points are strongly made, characters as a whole feel like generic Tudors, lightly coloured in. The Duke of Norfolk (Andrew Woodall), such a potently calculating presence in Morgan’s film, is a shouty presence here while their mother (Alex Kingston) is cartoonishly villainous, conscripted by patriarchy in pimping out her daughters.

King Henry (James Atherton) barely gets a look-in, which is perhaps a deliberate decision, but it leaves a dramatic vacuum – there is little evidence of the despotic fear and fervour he generates at court. What is more effectively conveyed is the idea of “truth” co-opted by tyranny: “The truth is whatever the king believes to be true,” says Norfolk. 

Joanna Parker’s set is handsome, with projections of colour (designed by Dick Straker) poured on to a spare hexagonal stage. They mark shifts between Henry’s court and the Boleyns’ Hever Castle. Damoclean swords dangle overhead and around marital beds as symbols of courtly danger, foreshadowing Anne’s beheading.

The production’s musicality is another strength, with singing, lute playing and 16th-century dance woven around the drama, which feels almost Shakespearean. The relationship between sisters builds psychological intensity in the final hour, as they fight over their different concepts of power and agency. It is gripping, if late in the day.

• At Chichester Festival theatre until 11 May 

Story by Arifa Akbar: The Guardian: 



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After death: What are the burial alternatives to rest in peace?

After death: What are the burial alternatives to rest in peace?

Placing a deceased loved one in a casket or saving their cremated remains in an urn have been the conventional methods of burial for centuries, both out of tradition and safety.

However, modern ideas about natural or “greener” options for body disposal, combined with advanced technology, have resulted in many innovative and creative ways to memorialize loved ones.

While they vary in cost and availability by region, and are sometimes limited by current science, unique alternatives such as space burial or eco-friendly pods are changing the way we approach the inevitability of death.


Story by Kim Mannix: Expresso: 


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Michael Byrne dies aged 36 as tributes paid to former Grand National jockey

Members of the horse racing community have been left devastated by the tragic death of former jockey Michael Byrne.

Dozens of tributes have been left to the rider, 36, who competed in the Grand National and took several races at Cheltenham. During his time in Britain, the Irishman had 96 winners, with 61 recorded on Tim Vaughan-trained horses since 2009.

"It is just so sad and I am devastated for Michael's family and friends," said Welsh trainer Vaughan, who provided Byrne's 2014 Aintree ride Golan Way in the edition won by Pineau De Re.

"He was a lovely person – reliable, honest and loyal. He started his career in Peter Bowen's stable and worked for us for about five years. Dicky (Richard) Johnson was our main jockey at the time and Michael was conditional, he rode out his claim here. We enjoyed lots of success together and got on famously well."

Byrne's uncle Pat Doyle, the well-respected trainer who owned the famed Suirview Stables academy, said: "Michael was very successful as a jockey and was a brilliant horseman and it's very, very sad.

"He was a great guy who was involved in horses and into his football. He had three brothers and two sisters and all the family are very close. He was a wonderful young man with a wonderful family around him and he'll be very sadly missed." 

More tributes flooded in, with Diamond Racing posting on social media: "Absolutely devastating to hear of the sad loss of former jockey, Michael Byrne. Condolences to his family and friends."

In 2010, Byrne was in Aintree's winners' enclosure after the Listed mares' bumper, when Bowen-trained Big Time Billy caused an upset at 28-1. 

Michael Byrne pictured with trainer Tim Vaughan© Tim Vaughan
Byrne pictured riding a horse named Koultas King© PA

It rounded off a special day for the handler, as Always Waining galloped to his first Topham Chase title, a race he made his own in subsequent years.

The following month, Byrne was victorious up in Liverpool with 2005 Cheltenham Gold Cup second Take The Stand, just nine days after the pair's triumph on hunter chase night at Prestbury Park. Buck Magic provided another career milestone there, securing a conditional jockeys' handicap hurdle at the 2021 November Meeting. 

The thoroughbred's trainer Neil Mulholland said: "Michael will be sadly missed, he was a lovely fella and used to ride out here. A lot of my staff worked with him and they have been affected by the news. Our thoughts go out to his family and friends."

Byrne retired in 2016 and returned home to Ireland, where he prepared horses for the sales.

Four-time champion jockey Johnson said on X: "So sad to hear news of the loss of Michael Byrne. My thoughts are with his family RIP."

A spokesperson from the Amateur Jockeys Association of Great Britain added: "Heartbreaking news. We send our deepest condolences to the family and many friends of former @amajox @QrIrish Michael Byrne. May he Rest In Peace."

The tragedy comes just a month after another jockey, Stefano Cherchi, died after a mid-race accident in Australia. He was seriously injured in a fall at Canberra racecourse and died in hospital two weeks later on April 3, at the age of 23. 

Story by Melissa Jones: Mirror: 

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