Human evolution

Homo Naledi as new species now questioned at Berkeley

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Bones of Contention: Why Cal Paleo Expert is So Skeptical That Homo Naledi Is New Species

Amid all the hoopla and confetti, however, a growing number of scientists are advising caution. They’re not denying the importance of the find; the fossils, they say, are invaluable. But they contend that the bones may not represent a new species. The evidence these skeptics point to suggests that the finds may actually be bones from Homo erectus, the earliest known hominid to manifest the general proportions, stance and gait of modern humans. H. erectus had a long tenure on the planet, living from about 2 million to 70,000 years ago. The species was widely distributed (from Africa to East Asia and possibly southern Europe), used tools and fire, and may have constructed rafts to cross wide bodies of water.

By virtue of his scholarly bona fides, Berkeley paleoanthropologist Tim White seems the default, if somewhat reluctant, lead spokesman for the H. naledi contrarians. White worked with Richard Leakey in Kenya and Mary Leakey in Tanzania. In 1994, as a co-director of the Middle Awash Project in Ethiopia, White and his fellow researchers unearthed a fossilized partial female skeleton of Ardipithecus ramidus; at 4.4 million years of age, “Ardi” is the oldest know human antecedent. Two years later, White and his fellow researchers discovered fossils from Australopithecus garhi, a 2.5-million-year-old hominid who was contemporaneous with the earliest known use of stone tools. More.

See also: Before you bet on homo Naledi, read this.

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