Science Alert: Humanity’s strange new cousin is shockingly young — and shaking up the family tree

Homo naledi — an enigmatic hominin species discovered in a South African cave two years ago — lived as recently as 236,000 years ago and may have crossed paths with modern humans, researchers report in new papers published Tuesday. The same scientists have also uncovered a second cavern containing Homo naledi skeletons, adding to the evidence that the primitive species may have performed a surprisingly modern behavior: burying the dead. For years, scientists assumed that all members of the Homo genus in Africa were quite advanced by this time, but Homo naledi complicates that narrative. Its limbs and teeth suggest that it had a human’s walking habits and diet, and perhaps roamed the same lands and ate the same foods as our recent ancestors. But its brain was just 30 percent the size of a human’s, no bigger than that of a gorilla today. It has scientists saying it might be more accurate to think of human evolution as a stream rather than a branching tree.

 
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Science Alert Tue., May. 09, 2017 4:02 a.m.
 
 
Humanity’s strange new cousin is shockingly young — and shaking up the family tree
Homo naledi — an enigmatic hominin species discovered in a South African cave two years ago — lived as recently as 236,000 years ago and may have crossed paths with modern humans, researchers report in new papers published Tuesday. The same scientists have also uncovered a second cavern containing Homo naledi skeletons, adding to the evidence that the primitive species may have performed a surprisingly modern behavior: burying the dead. For years, scientists assumed that all members of the Homo genus in Africa were quite advanced by this time, but Homo naledi complicates that narrative. Its limbs and teeth suggest that it had a human’s walking habits and diet, and perhaps roamed the same lands and ate the same foods as our recent ancestors. But its brain was just 30 percent the size of a human’s, no bigger than that of a gorilla today. It has scientists saying it might be more accurate to think of human evolution as a stream rather than a branching tree.
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