Scientists exploring a cave system in South Africa have discovered a new human-like species called Homo naledi. The fossils of the creature were found in a burial chamber in the cave system.
This discovery, according to reports, is the single biggest discovery of this kind in Africa. A total of 15 partial skeletons were discovered during the expedition. According to researchers, the discovery will be changing ideas about human ancestors significantly.
The study published in the popular peer-reviewed open-access science journal Elife also suggests that these human-like creatures had the ability to showcase ritual behavior.
As its name suggests, the species is called naledi and belongs to the genus or grouping called Homo. The researchers who discovered this new species haven’t been able to determine the exact era during which these creatures used to live on this planet. However, the leader of the research team Professor Lee Berger has said that this species might be the first of our kind i.e. creatures belonging to the genus Homo. According to Prof. Berger, Homo naledi possibly resided in Africa around 3 million years back.
Prof Berger believes that naledi might actually be the “bridge” or “missing link” between the humans and more primeval bipedal primates. He informed that he and his team began with the discovery of a single fossil, which later turned into multiple fossils and eventually resulted in the discovery of numerous skeletons belonging to various individuals.
Professor Chris Stringer, a representative of the Natural History Museum, said that the entire process of discovery that lasted for 21 days gave the scientists a remarkable experience. He informed that the excavation allowed the team of come across the biggest ever assemblage of fossils of human relatives in Africa.
Prof. Stringer said that this discovery indicates that nature experimented a lot with the process of human evolution and in the process gave birth to multiple human-like creatures.
The 15 partial skeletons found during the excavation belonged to both males and females of different age groups (infants, adults and older adults). Professor Berger feels that with such a diverse discovery scientists will soon be able to know everything about Homo naledi. According to him, analyses of the skeletons will help them to know facts such as when their children were born when they got weaned, how they grew up and so on.