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A twist in the evolutionary tale: why the discovery of a 'young' Homo naledi changes everything




Slowly daring these periods, the hominin fossil fell is insufficient to repurchase further amendments about the underlying security of H. The peg of Homo naledi. The stays are exemplified by operating age of the largest flowstone tag within the starting, amplified on the JCU publishers.


In an interview published by National Dxting magazineBerger revealed that the H. Here, we address some of the implications of the announcement, as we wait for the full publication of Homl results. Why has it taken so long to establish the age of the fossils? It can be surprisingly difficult to work out how old fossil bones are. Many of naleri techniques researchers can use require the isotopic analysis of bone samples. Berger and his colleagues are reluctant to use these techniques, because they involve destroying small samples of precious fossil material.

Another option is to date the rock or sediment that blankets the layer in which the fossils are found. Ancient lava flows, in particular, contain chemical signatures that are perfect for isotopic dating. But the H. Read more: New species of extinct human found in cave may rewrite history Researchers can also work out the rough age of the fossils by looking at the fossil remains of other species found alongside them, if the age of those other species has already been established. Sub-unit 1b is dominated by sandy orange mud deposits that are rich in micro-faunal remain, stratigraphically overlies deposits of sub-unit 1a Figure 2c and dand may have formed through the partial erosion and re-deposition of sub-unit 1a.

Deposits of sub-unit 1c are similar in appearance and composition to the laminated, muddy sediments of sub-unit 1a, but they occur along chert ledges, solution pockets and fractures in the chamber walls and along the entry shaft, higher up in the cave chamber Figure 2.

The orange mud is mostly the product of the cave formation process, representing the insoluble residue left over when cavities develop via dissolution of dolomite Dirks et al. Some of the mud-bearing waters seeping out of the fractures would have flowed as water films along the cave walls to deposit mud on ledges and in fractures to form sub-unit 1c, whilst elsewhere this water would have dripped to the floor to contribute to the deposition of sub-unit 1a and 1b. Unit 2 is composed of largely lithified mud clast breccia consisting of angular to sub-angular clasts of laminated orange mudstone similar to that found in Unit 1embedded in a brown mud matrix Facies 2 of Dirks et al.

The mud clasts are interpreted to be derived locally due to wetting and drying of orange mud deposits, which led to auto-brecciation, and subsequent erosion and re-deposition of angular mud clasts Dirks et al. We hypothesize that the mud clasts forming Unit 2 are partly derived from erosion of deposits of sub-unit 1c, and partly from a yet unidentified unit that was likely deposited in fractures within and above the chamber entry zone. Two macro-fossils partial shafts of long bones that are non-specific, but not hominin, have been found in Unit 2. Unit 2 sediments are only exposed as hanging remnants attached below the remains of a composite flowstone sheet Flowstone 1a near the entrance shaft into the chamber Figure 2b ; Dirks et al.

Note that in Dirks et al. Unit 2 sediments accumulated as a sloping debris cone of mud clast breccia below a vertical fracture system before being covered by flowstone Flowstone 1a. The debris cone of mud clast breccia was subsequently eroded leaving behind hanging erosion remnants of Unit 2 below a flowstone apron Figures 2b and 3l. The processes that caused erosion of the Unit 2 debris cone led to the deposition of Unit 3 sediment along the floor of the Dinaledi Chamber as shown in Figure 8. Unit 3 is composed of largely unlithified, clast-supported, mud clast breccia Facies 2 of Dirks et al. Unit 3 accumulated below the hanging remnants of the Unit 2 debris cone near the entry shaft, and also extends along the current, sloping cave floor to the SW end of the chamber Figures 2c and 8.

Unit 3 sediments are dynamic in the sense that they are poorly lithified in most places and actively slump towards, and erode into, floor drains that occur in parts of the chamber where sediment is being washed down to deeper levels in the cave likely as a result of fluctuations in the ground water level. Remains of Unit 3 sediment are attached to apron-like erosional remnants of Flowstones 1b-e near the entrance shaft Figure 2a and 3l. Erosional remnants of Unit 3 under Flowstone 1c contain in situ long bones consistent with H. Note that Dirks et al. Everywhere else, Unit 3 deposits are spread across the cave floor as loosely packed, semi-moist, orange mud clasts of varying sizes in which bone material of H.

Unit 3 is partly covered by sheets of Flowstone Groups 1, 2 and 3. Unit 3 has been divided into a lower and an upper sub-unit, termed sub-unit 3a and 3b Figure 2based on the respective absence or presence of hominin fossils. Sediments belonging to sub-unit 3a are not directly exposed in the chamber, but their presence has been confirmed in the deepest part of the excavation area Figure 2d. In contrast sub-unit 3b is exposed within the talus cone near the entry shaft and along the cave floor, and contains all of the known H. The thickness of sub-unit 3b is thought to be no more than 20—30 cm see below.

The distribution of fossils, units, and flowstones All hominin bones identified in the Dinaledi Chamber are contained in deposits of sub-unit 3b. Bones attributed to H. Preliminary ground penetrating radar work Naidoo, suggests that Unit 3 deposits along the floor of the Dinaledi Chamber could be up to 1. A 50 cm-deep sondage was dug in the centre of the excavation pit, which itself is 20 cm deep, to indicate a minimum depth of 70 cm for the mud clast breccia pile of Unit 3. The top 20 cm of this sediment contains H. A discrete contact occurs at 15—20 cm depth, below which no more fossils were encountered with the exception of a single juvenile baboon tooth sample ; Figure 7 that was recovered from a depth of 55—60 cm below the original cave floor surface in sediment of sub-unit 3a Figures 2 and 8.

Staining patterns on bone fragments, skeletal element representation, and the fact that bones can be seen to weather out from erosional remnants of sub-unit 3b, indicate that part of the fossil assemblage has been reworked Dirks et al.

The presence of well-articulated remains in the excavation pit nalsdi from the chamber entrance indicates that some of the remains entered nakedi cave intact. Drobyshevskiy identifies remains of H. Anthropologist John D. Hawksfrom the University of Wisconsin—Madison who was a member of the team, stated anledi the scientific facts are that all the bones recovered are hominid, except for those of one Homo naledi dating there are no signs of datting, and there is no predator that accumulates only Homk this way; the bones did not accumulate there all at once. There is no evidence of rocks or sediment having dropped into baledi cave from any opening in the surface, and no evidence of water flowing into the cave carrying the bones into the cave.

Among deposits of non H. They stated that there is no evidence a catastrophe placed the bodies in the cave, and that the bodies were deliberately placed in cave. Palaeoanthropologist Lee Berger assembled a team of excavators who proceeded to recover more than 1, fossil bones belonging to at least 15 individuals, ranging from infants to elderly adults. This video by Wits University featuring recreational caver Rick Hunter who discovered the chamber highlights just how difficult to reach the fossils were, and why the initial team sent to search for fossils was made up of smaller women: A subsequent search of a second chamber more than metres away in the same cave system yielded a further fossils.

Puzzling combination of features Homo naledi displayed a unique combination of human and non-human traits throughout its skeleton. The species' small brain and the shape of its upper body are more similar to the pre-human australopithecines and the very early human species Homo habilis. The teeth increase in size towards the back of the mouth, a primitive characteristic, but they are relatively small and simple and set in light jawbones.

This yards a very depositional nautilus and timing for the data and the specs Dirks et al. Hugo Gurche Sources:.

Two Homo naledi mandibles lower jawbones. The teeth are small and this species' jawbone is not as strongly built as those of many ancient humans and other extinct hominins, but the way the molars increase in size Homo naledi dating the back of the jaw is a notably primitive feature. Together, H. Whatever phylogenetic scenario we accept, H. The long evolutionary branch leading to H. Much of the evolution of cranial form among species of Homo in the Pleistocene appears to be consistent with neutral evolution by genetic drift, with a few features showing evidence Homo naledi dating adaptive evolution Ackermann and Cheverud, ; Weaver et al. If the correlations among some aspects of H.

An alternative hypothesis for the homoplastic appearance of H. As ancient DNA evidence has grown, it has become clear that hybridization among genetically distant human lineages occurred many times Kuhlwilm et al. The mosaic anatomy of H. This hypothesis remains untestable with the current evidence, although it seems more parsimonious to suggest that H. The evidence of genetic mixture among more recent hominins makes this hypothesis seem reasonable, but again it is untestable unless genetic material is obtained from the fossils. Attempts to obtain aDNA from H. Unfortunately, the Pliocene hominin record is poor, and without clearly understanding the ancestral lineage of H.

Therefore, the importance of these apparent autapomorphies in establishing the origins of H. Implications for the fossil record Until now, palaeoanthropologists and archaeologists have generally assumed that morphologically primitive hominins such as H. This assumption has guided the interpretation of fossil discoveries with poor geological or stratigraphic context, including the many surface finds that make up the majority of the record from ancient lacustrine and riverine deposits e. Taieb et al. The discovery of H. Before the publication of a geological age for H.

This includes one formal morphological study Thackeray, and many other published comments by experts. These examples show that expert intuition about the ages of fossil samples is likely to be wrong when based on their morphology alone. We must therefore demand fuller information about the geological context both of surface finds and of finds that are reported as in situ. If fragments of H. As we have noted, parts of the H. As we know neither the origination point nor the extinction time of H. Implications for the archaeological record H.

Its wrist, hand and fingertip morphology share several derived features with Neanderthals and modern humans that are absent in H.

Dating Homo naledi

If these features Hono to support habitual tool manufacture in Neanderthals and modern humans, then it is reasonable to conclude that H. The use of tools and the consumption of higher-quality foodstuffs including meat and processed plant resources have been hypothesized as evolutionary pressures leading to dental reduction in hominins Zink and Lieberman, The small dentition of H. What tools did H. Mcbrearty and Brooks,


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