Is this another human relative?

September 11, 2015 09:33
The skull of a homo naledi is almost like that of a human, according to researchers who unearthed a set of fossils in South Africa. Photo: Internet

A major fossil find in South Africa is shedding light on a previously unknown specieis related to humans and the origins of mankind.

The fossils were unearthed by an international team of scientists in a cave northwest of Johannesburg, Bloomberg reports.

Known as homo naledi, the new species measured about 1.5 meters tall on average, weighed about 45 kilos and had hands that suggested it had tool-using and climbing capabilities.

While its skull and teeth were similar to the earliest known members of the homo genus, its shoulders were more similar to those of apes.

The find was announced by the University of the Witwatersrand, the National Geographic Society and South Africa’s Department of Science and Technology and National Research Foundation and details were published in the scientific journal eLife and National Geographic magazine.

“Homo naledi appears to have intentionally deposited bodies of its dead in a remote cave chamber, a behavior previously thought limited to humans,” the researchers said.

“So far, the team has recovered parts of at least 15 individuals of the same species, a small fraction of the fossils believed to remain in the chamber.”

The fossils, which consist of infants, children, adults and elderly individuals, have yet to be dated.

“With almost every bone in the body represented multiple times, homo naledi is already practically the best-known fossil member of our lineage,” said Lee Berger, research professor at the University of the Witwatersrand’s Evolutionary Studies Institute, who led the two expeditions that discovered and recovered the fossils.

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