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Earth Science

Researchers Say S. African Bones Are From Previously Unknown Human Relative 77

Ancient, but so far undated, remains found in a South African cave (more than 1500 pieces of bone and teeth) have been declared by the team which discovered them to represent a previously unknown kind of human relative, which they have dubbed Homo naledi. New submitter chapman writes: The human-like bones discovered in the Rising Star cave, 50km from Johannesburg, may belong to a new species of "long-legged," "pinheaded," and "gangly" human relative. Apparently the chamber in the cave where the discovery was made is so inaccessible (only 8 inches wide) that the team brought in a group of lightly-built female researchers in order to excavate the bones. Science Mag, too, describes the find as well as the controversy about the unusual publicity surrounding the exploration. The Guardian's article notes that the identification of the bones as belonging to a new species is disputed by some anthropologists, who say that based on the evidence presented so far, the bones may simply be examples of the previouly named Homo erectus.
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Researchers Say S. African Bones Are From Previously Unknown Human Relative

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  • The description sounds like the predecessor to our present day NBA player!!

    :)

  • by U2xhc2hkb3QgU3Vja3M ( 4212163 ) on Thursday September 10, 2015 @10:43AM (#50495227)
    it's an alien.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    A monkey's uncle...

  • The number of new species seems proportional to amount work done. We had a similar corundum in geological plate tectonics a couple decades ago. Nearly every new PhD thesis was discovering a new plate tectonic micro-plate. Finaly did what the planet astronomers did and divide them into significant ones and minor ones.
    • We don't even know the order of magnitude of the number of species on Earth, estimates range from 2 to 100 million. We've cataloged almost 100,000 of them.

      But must spend money on war for power and profit, and projecting power for intimidation; what possible good could come from wasting money on understanding life and how the universe functions?

      • What's interesting is that we don't even know all the land mammals [mongabay.com] yet. I mean, I can understand not cataloging every virus, bacterium, insect, plant, and ocean animal, but the fact that there are so many undocumented land mammals and amphibians kind of blows my mind. There's so much left to discover in this world.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 10, 2015 @12:27PM (#50496389)

      We had a similar corundum in geological plate tectonics a couple decades ago.

      That must have been hard.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Read the summary:

      Apparently the chamber in the cave where the discovery was made is so inaccessible (only 8 inches wide) that the team brought in a group of lightly-built female researchers in order to excavate the bones.

      Back in the day they sent the tallest gangliest guy in since no one else could both fit in and reach through some hole for something. Then he got trapped. Many years later people find his bones and once again send in a team of specially proportioned people. If they had gotten trapped, futur

  • Really? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Rei ( 128717 ) on Thursday September 10, 2015 @10:57AM (#50495371) Homepage

    I don't see how a population whose skulls are literally half the size of a typical H. erectus skull (among many other major differences) could be seen as just another H. erectus. And not just one, potentially deformed individual, but 15 individuals with the same characteristics. And even if they were the same species, this would still be a remarkable find - so many full, intact bodies in the same location. In a weird location, and in a land far from where H. erectus was known to have lived.

    • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )
      From what I understand they found remains from a wide range of ages, everything from babies and infants to older adults. So it would have had to have been from a whole population of individuals spanning several generations with the same characteristics (or deformities if the are Homo erectus). Definitely lends credence to the theory that this find is of a new species. It would be interesting to know what time frame they are dated to, which could give an idea on if they are progenitors of humans or on a c
      • They've also suggested that these specimens must have been specifically placed in the pile they were found, potentially over hundreds of years. They could represent individual weirdo's shunned and cast out. Birth or developmental defects rather than speciation. Imagine what a future archeologist would think if he came across a chamber where thalidomide babies (many of whom are now in their 50s) or hydrocephalic people were collected upon their death.
  • Pinheads? They found this clan:

    http://static.rogerebert.com/u... [rogerebert.com]

  • Any time scientific claims are released to media before peer review, suspect the results, and the motives of the researcher. [1]

    [1] See cold fusion.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Er, this has been reviewed and published: http://elifesciences.org/

      If you page down in the Naledi article, you will see a transcript of the peer review.

      And no, I don't know why they didn't publish in NAture or Science, perhaps they aren't Apple users.

      Oddly, I was in this cave complex "Sterkfontein" just three weeks ago. The cave where this discovered is not on the toru path but damned well guarded.
      I am off to the Origins Centre at Wits University tomorrow to peek at the bones myself.

  • What of these lightly-built female researchers? Scantily clad Lara Croft types? Mmmm?

  • by Ugmo ( 36922 )

    Homo Florensis is the Hobbit.
    Now bones of oddly shaped humanoid creatures found piled in the bottom of a cave?

    A. Balin and his Dwarves in Moria.
    B. Gollum's leftover Orc bones in his original cave before Bilbo met him.

  • "We just dug up some bones in the family plot..."

    "Was it uncle Frank?"

    "No, uncle Frank is buried in the North end..."

    "Was it uncle Sal?"

    "No, uncle Sal is in the South end. There wasn't supposed to be anyone buried in the west end..."

    "Are you sure it wasn't aunt Daisy's chimp?"

    "No, no, it's definitely a human..."

    "So you're saying... It's A Previously Unknown Human Relative?!?"

  • Pinheaded? Must be Bennett's ancestors...

  • >pinheaded

    CTRL-F "zippy"

    0

    Yow.

    --
    BMO

  • I'm more interested in knowing how any modern human squeezed through a 25cm and 20cm pathway to the cave. Wearing headlamps and helmets or not, unless they had contortionist scientists?

    • that the team brought in a group of lightly-built female researchers

      And if you had bothered to RTFA you would have seen that whilst narrow the opening is relatively straight, and you can always push / pull your gear through, you don't HAVE to be wearing everything.

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