Human evolution

Before you bet on homo Naledi, read this

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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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4 Replies to “Before you bet on homo Naledi, read this

  1. 1
    ppolish says:

    The dig was sponsored by Nat Geo. The same Nat Geo that aired this NOVA Show last week detailing the find.
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/e.....anity.html

    Publish in eLife before the show, publish in Nature later. But who cares, the show was the driving force.

  2. 2
    vh says:

    has anyone heard if they’ve attempted to carbon 14 date these individuals? Also, how could these (unburied?) bones stick around so long without decaying? To be some sort of intermediate between the australopithecines and homo erectus the time frame would have to be in the millions of years. At least 2 million years anyway. Sounds unbelievable to say the least. but maybe I’m missing something.

  3. 3
    PeterJ says:

    Hi vh,

    I asked that very same question in an earlier post ‘how could these bones last so long exposed to the air, laying around on a cave floor?’, but no one took up on this.

    I thought perhaps I was missing something too. But I find it incredibly hard to believe that such small bones would last that long (2-3my)as exposed as they were.

    Does any one care to shed a little light on this!

    just as an after thought, did these bones ‘fossilize’, in which case we can cease seeking an explanation, or are they still ‘bone’, in which case I think we have good reason to doubt their age?

    Perhaps someone could help?

  4. 4
    Axel says:

    Surely, when such a purported news flash appears on this particular subject, the default position should automatically be that it’s the usual, sad wishful-thinking of atheisms myrmidons.

    Just as I assume the stories we are peddled in geopolitical matters are always, more or less, the precise antithesis of the truth. I’m not sure I’ve ever been wrong, but nobody’s going to get a Nobel prize for a lengthy perfect score in that particular field.

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