An extinct human species was recently discovered, and judging by its limbs, this ancestor of ours was able to live both in the trees and on the ground, according to researchers.
Scientists are not 100 percent sure how this newly found human species – called Homo naledi – walked, but they believe that the H. naledi walking style must have been quite different from our own.
According to the researchers, Homo naledi had quite a small brain, probably the size of an orange, however that did not stop him from doing things that require some thinking, such as burying the dead.
In a cave from South Africa, the researchers found about 1,550 bone fragments and bones of Homo naledi. This represents the biggest hominin fossil collection that has ever been found Africa.
Because of its nature, this particular cave makes it quite difficult to establish the age of the Homo naledi fossils, thus scientists have yet to determine the time in which our human ancestor lived.
In their research, scientists looked at the feet and hands of Homo naledi to see whether it walked on land, or it lived on trees, or both.
One almost complete adult hand, as well as other 150 Homo naledi hand bones were analysed by the researchers. They found that the wrist and thumb of the Homo naledi, were similar to that of Neanderthals and modern humans. That means that they could us their hands to hold tools, because their grip was powerful enough to do so.
The fingers of the Homo naledi were actually more curved and longer than those of almost all the other hominin species, such as the australopithecines. Because of the shape of their fingers, the hands of the H. nadeli were suited for grabbing onto branches, helping our human ancestor lead a life in trees.
“The tool-using features of the H. naledi hand has interesting implications for what cognitive requirements might be needed to make and use tools,” Tracy Kivell, a reader in biological anthropology, primate locomotion, skeletal morphology, origin and evolution of human bipedalism and hand use at the University of Kent in England, stated.
The researchers also analysed an almost complete adult foot, and other 107 Homo naledi foot bones. What they found is that the foot of the Homo naledi has many characteristics that are similar to the foot of the modern human. This suggests that the H. naledi had the ability to walk upright.
William Harcourt-Smith, a palaeoanthropologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York and at the Lehman College in the Bronx, said that the foot of the Homo naledi was not entirely like the modern human foot, but that it was more similar than not.
The main difference – which supports the leading life in trees theory – is that the toes were more curved than our own toes.
Image Source: s-nbcnews