A new ancestor to humans was uncovered in a cave in South Africa, and science is having a collective orgasm over it. Eh, cool.
This historic evolutionary discovery came from a team led by a person with a sweet nerdy job, paleoanthropologist Lee Berger, who dug up the remains of fossils they claim are early primitive relatives of humans. The floor of the cave—which you can only get to through an extremely narrow entry path—was littered with bones that researchers now say belong to a species they’ve named Homo naledi.
While this new species shares characteristics with modern people—including human-like hands and feet—Homo naledi is categorized as non-human. “We’d never seen a non-human that shares so many primitive and yet sometimes advanced characters,” says Berger in the clip above.
Watch for the orgasmic gasps at the six-second mark when one of the researchers whips out the genus.
The creature, which evidently walked upright, represents a mix of traits. For example, the hands and feet look like Homo, but the shoulders and the small brain recall Homo’s more ape-like ancestors, the researchers said.
Lee Berger, a professor at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg who led the work, said naledi’s anatomy suggest that it arose at or near the root of the Homo group, which would make the species some 2.5 million to 2.8 million years old. The discovered bones themselves may be younger, he said.
The discovery, of course, has its non-believers, as some scientists speculate that Naledi is not actually a new species. As usual, time will tell, maybe. Based on the location of the bones, the researchers theorize that our apparent ancestors were dumping the bones of their dead in the cave area.
“If this hypothesis holds true, that’s extraordinary,” says Berger. “What Naledi has taught us is that there is clearly more out there that we didn’t know.”
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