Welcome ‘Homo Naledi’ in human race!

By NewsGram Staff Writer

20150912_stp004Johannesburg: So the human race has a new creature in the family now!  On Thursday, an international team of more than 60 scientists led by Lee R Berger  in Johannesburg announced the new species found in the caves of South Africa. The name Homo Naledi refers to the cave where the bones lay undisturbed for so long; “naledi” means “star” in the local Sesotho language.

The species measured about 5-feet tall and had the brain size of chimpanzees. There is evidence of a powerful thumb and a complex wrist that are distinctly human-like—clear signs of regular tool use. But the fingers are strongly curved, suggesting hands that were also regularly used for climbing. The bones, they argue, look strikingly similar to those of early Homo Erectus, a forerunner of modern humans who wandered southern Africa 1.5m years ago.

Dr Berger said, “With almost every bone in the body represented multiple times, Homo Naledi is already the best-known fossil member of our lineage.”

Christoph Zollikofer, an anthropologist at the University of Zurich, said many of the bone characteristics indicated that the creature as a new species is seen in more primitive animals, and by definition it cannot be used to define a new species.

“If this is an ancient species, like a coelacanth, that has come down through time and is only tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands of years old, it means that during that time we had a complex species wandering around Africa, perhaps making tools. That would make archaeology very difficult, because we are not going to know who made what,” Berger said.

Dr Berger is an American paleoanthropologist who is a professor of human evolution studies at the University of the Witwatersrand.

2 COMMENTS

  1. This is a great discovery & excavation, but prof Berger’s interpretations (human ancestor, deliberate burial, tool maker, distance runner) are anthropocentric.
    Homo or Australopithecus naledi is not unexpected (in fact predicted, google: aquarboreal). Comparative anatomy suggests that naledi were bonobo-like forest-swamp or wetland waders who fed on aquatic herbaceous vegetation (AHV, e.g. sedges, frogbit, waterlilies) like lowland gorillas & bonobos do (google: bonobo wading) but more frequently.
    They fossilised in mud-stone (stagnant water). The curved hand-bones were for vertical climbing in the branches above the swamp like bonobos do. With their long thumbs, they swam & collected floating herbs (AHV). The flat, more humanlike feet are more flamingo- (wading) than ostrich-like (running).
    It was a natural fossilisation: when they died, their bodies got almost immediately covered with (oxygen-poor) mud, and afterwards the mudstone with the abundant (google: gorilla bai) fossils slid side- & downwards (on average a few centimetres every thousand years).
    The more humanlike primitive feet are no argument for making them Homo: prenatal chimps also have longer & adducted big toes (S.Coon) and female highland gorillas keep these into adulthood (A.Schultz).

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