From Evolution News & Views:
The technical paper, “Homo naledi, a new species of the genus Homo from the Dinaledi Chamber, South Africa,” appeared in a lesser-known journal, eLife. It’s a great find due to the sheer number of bones that were find, but to my mind its publication in eLife is immediate hint that this fossil isn’t an earthshattering “transitional form,” because if it were, we almost unquestionably would have seen the fossil published in Science or Nature.
The question has been raised before, why it wasn’t published in Nature. In principal, it is up their alley, no?
The specimens found in this cave are very diverse, suggesting they might belong to multiple species. But if that’s the case, then we don’t know that we’ve found one single species with a mixture of human-like and australopithecine traits. The supposedly transitional “mosaic” falls apart.
This brings us back, in a full circle, to Australopithecus sediba. As I mentioned at the beginning, exactly four years ago the media were eagerly promoting that species as the latest “human ancestor” or “transitional form.” And what happened? What always happens happened: cooler heads prevailed and it was found that sediba was from the wrong time period and had the wrong set of traits to be a link between humanlike members of the genus Homo and the apelike members of Australopithecus. What will become of “Homo naledi” remains to be seen. So far, though, its pathway reminds me of other hominin fossils whose “transitional” or “ancestral” status ultimately went belly up. A strong dose of healthy skepticism is warranted.More.
Good thing we did not bet the rent then.
See also: The Science Fictions series at your fingertips (human evolution)
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