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New Human Ancestor's Bones Found in Cave in South Africa

Image: New Human Ancestor's Bones Found in Cave in South Africa
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By    |   Thursday, 10 Sep 2015 12:06 PM

Researchers believe they have found the bones of a new ancestor of humans in a cave in South Africa and are calling the previously unknown species Homo naledi.

Scientists say Homo naledi had a small brain and apelike shoulders which aided it in climbing, said National Geographic.

"Modern humans, or Homo sapiens, are now the only living species in their genus," said a study on the discovery published at the science open-access site eLife. "But as recently as 100,000 years ago, there were several other species that belonged to the genus Homo. Together with modern humans, these extinct human species, our immediate ancestors and their close relatives, are collectively referred to as 'hominins.'"

"Now (researchers) report the recent discovery of an extinct species from the genus Homo that was unearthed from deep underground in what has been named the Dinaledi Chamber, in the Rising Star cave system in South Africa," said the study.

Steven Tucker and Rick Hunter found the bones two years ago in a remote portion of the Rising Star cave system where other fossils had been discovered, said National Geographic.

They informed paleoanthropologist Lee Berger, the lead author of the study who works at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

Since then, Berger and fellow researchers have found and documented more than 1,550 fossil elements, representing what they believe is the largest sample for any hominin species in a single African site, and one of the largest in the world, said The New York Times.

"With almost every bone in the body represented multiple times, Homo naledi is already practically the best-known fossil member of our lineage," said Berger.

Researchers believe the finding indicates that some early hominins deposited bodies of their dead in remote and largely inaccessible chambers of caves, actions previously believed to be limited to modern humans.

"It's very, very fascinating," said Ian Tattersall of the American Museum of Natural History in New York. "No question there's at least one new species here, but there may be debate over the Homo designation, though the species is quite different from anything else we have seen."

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Researchers believe they have found the bones of a new ancestor of humans in a cave in South Africa and are calling the previously unknown species Homo naledi.
new, human, ancestor, bones, cave, south africa
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2015-06-10
Thursday, 10 Sep 2015 12:06 PM
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