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Human fossil discovery in Africa may be the greatest find in the last 50 years

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Story by Anna Clayton

Messenger Staff

 

Human evolution and how humans came to be has always been a mystery, a question that has always needed answering. It’s a puzzle, and recently another piece has been uncovered. Fossils found in Africa were just discovered to have been the earliest species of Homo sapiens that are as similar to modern humans as any other discovery.
They are calling this new relative of the human species, Homo Naledi.
“One of the most exciting things for us is that we discovered something new in biology. We had never seen a creature like this before,” said John Hawks, an anthropologist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
This new species seems to have had a certain amount of knowledge. All of these fossils were purposely set in an ancient clay suggesting they set them there in an effort to bury them, similar to human practice.
“It’s enormously surprising to see a very primitive member of the genus, not very humanlike overall, to do something unique to humans, to see it in a small-brained hominid is completely surprising. None of us expected it,” Lee Berger, an American paleoanthropologist, said.
“I think this discovery is pretty big,” said Suzanna Johnson, Placer biology teacher. “I mean it’s a whole new species that we never knew about. And now they have to figure out where it fits in the evolution of hominism. But despite all the species that have been here in the past, we should focus on making sure our species isn’t the last,” added Johnson.
Homo Naledi seems to have had plenty of intelligence, close to the amount of modern humans. It comes near or at the exact root of genus Homo- 2.5 million years ago.
The brain of the Homo Naledi was no bigger than a baseball but was clear that the females gave birth to infants with larger brains due to their wider pelvis. Their fingers were long and curved allowing them to swing from branches and climb trees, yet, the wrist bones showed they used tools. It had long legs and feet allowing it to walk up hill for many miles.
The imprint of the brain on the inner skull suggests that certain areas had begun to evolve and grow into those of more humanlike species.
“Even if it does share more features of Homo than other species, it could be a close sister to us rather than an ancestor,” said Carol Ward a paleoanthropologist at the University of Missouri.
“…it gives us a different model for how things could fit in our own origins,” Berger added. “This chamber has not given up all its secrets.”
This discovery has gotten us one step closer toward solving the mysteries of human evolution. Another puzzle piece to an infinite number of possibilities.

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The School Newspaper of Placer High School
Human fossil discovery in Africa may be the greatest find in the last 50 years