AL 288-1--Lucy or Lucifer: gender confusion in the Pliocene

J Hum Evol. 1998 Jul;35(1):75-94. doi: 10.1006/jhev.1998.0223.


Häusler & Schmid (1995) challenged the long held opinion that AL 288-1 (Australopithecus afarensis), popularly known as "Lucy", was female. They concluded that AL 288-1 was most probably male ("Lucifer") and, by extension, the hypodigm for A. afarensis consists of two species which differ from one another in body size; in their opinion, AL 288-1 was most probably a male of the smaller of the two species. Häusler & Schmid based their conclusion on an obstetric analysis of AL 288-1 and Sts 14 (A. africanus) and on a comparison of the two australopithecine pelves with those of modern humans. This study evaluates the pelvic anatomy and probable sex of AL 288-1 by both assessing the obstetric adequacy of its pelvis and critically reviewing Häusler & Schmid's (1995, 1997) analyses of australopithecine pelvic dimorphism and relative body size of AL 288-1. Three results are shown. First, using Häusler & Schmid's own data, AL-288-1's and Sts 14's pelves are seen not to be dimorphic with respect to each other, as are human males and females, but they are in fact comparable in both size and shape. Second, AL 288-1's pelvis would have been obstetrically adequate, even with an inferred newborn brain size (as suggested by Häusler & Schmid) for A. afarensis that is likely overestimated. Third, AL 288-1 is shown to be one of the smallest adult individuals in A. afarensis. We conclude that AL 288-1 and Sts 14 were the same sex, and that the name "Lucy" correctly identifies AL 288-1's gender as female.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Hominidae / anatomy & histology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pelvic Bones / anatomy & histology*
  • Sex Determination Analysis*