New molecular dating procedures could confirm link from small-brained Naledi to modern Sub-S Afros

Christopher Stringer of the London Museum of Sciences Tweeted out, Oct. 14, ‘Lee Berger: We have made another major discovery about early humans.”  Dr. Berger was interviewed by the New Scientist, Oct. 14:

The new fossil hominin remains he has discovered are located near the Rising Star caves, but the bones haven’t yet been excavated due to the challenging nature of their location. “It’s a difficult site,” said Berger, as the fossils are embedded in very hard rock.

So could this be another new species? “I don’t know. We haven’t got them out of the rock yet,” said Berger.

He goes on to state that the jaws and teeth indicate that they are not Homo naledi or Sedibus, two previous species that he and his son discovered.  Berger made the find recently with Univ. of Wisconsin anthropology professor Dr. John Hawks.

In the course of the interview with the New Scientist, Berger may have made some news on another front.  He explains modern dating techniques have advanced, and continue to advance at rapid pace.  As a result, he expects very soon to have definitive DNA from Homo naledi which could solve the puzzle of how they fit into our family tree.

Some background from Newsbreezer.com, 2018, (from Spanish translation),

Homo naledi, the Mysterious Connection of Human Evolution

The discovery five years ago of Homo naledi, a new kind of hominid coexisting in the South African savanna along with humans… could forever change what we know about evolution. A team of Russian researchers has presented in Moscow the scientific reconstruction of the head of the mysterious creature discovered by American paleoanthropologist Lee Berger in South Africa, giving his colleagues in Russia a copy of the naledi skull…

The Naledi is half Simian, half human… says Russian anthropologist Stanislav Drobishevski…

“It combines very primitive aspects, such as the brain, more specifically primates, with other sophisticated (like teeth and legs) that are similar to those of today’s humans, “says the scientist.

Drobishevski goes on to explain that genes of Homo naledi and modern Busmen and Pygmies show similarities, stating, “their DNA, the link… of some African[s], could be the genomoe of Naledi…”

It was thought years ago that Naledi roamed the African plains way before modern humans had arrived. But more recent evidence suggests they could have survived up to 250k years ago, and even 200k years ago. Modern humans are now believed to have emerged 300k years ago.

Now this from New Scientist interview with Lee Berger, Oct. 14:

Berger: We found multiple other occurences [in those cave alcoves]…  the last count I have is over two dozen individuals of Homo naledi which is incredible…

Interviewer: As I understand it, Naledi is a very weird mosaic of very ancient looking features, and very modern looking features. And that might be because of interbreeding between a very ancient and modern looking species, is that right? [Emphasis added]

Berger: One idea could be hybridization, or it could be that this Hominid descends from a very ancient ancestor that is primitive to the entire genus [Homo sapiens].  That is could this be the stem of our genus? Now that’s a possibility. And then things like Homo habilis and Homo erectus, they spin off of this.  Maybe even the Hobbits in Florence (sic), [Floriensias]. But that doesn’t explain the very advanced features we see in Homo naledi. There are features in Homo naledi that are only seen in modern humans, not even seen in Homo erectus. How do we explain that.  And the answer is we don’t have an explanation for that right now. [Emphasis added]

Dr. Berger’s colleague and friend John Hawks:

“We do know that African populations derive some small fraction of their DNA, possibly as much as 5%… from archaic lineages that we haven’t discovered… there is some sign of some archaic lineage that’s contributed to some populations. What we don’t know is the identity of that lineage… It could be Naledi?”– Dr. John Hawks, lecture Oct 2017 Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison

YouTube Video from Curiosity Stream, 2018, on the Discovery of Homo naledi featuring Berger and Hawks.

 

Eric

Author Eric

FSU grad, US Navy Veteran. Houston, Texas

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