By NewsGram Staff Writer
Johannesburg: 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.