ESF Top 10 New Species Links

Hominin: Family Tree Grows a New Branch

ESF Top 10 New Species of 2016

  • Homo naledi skull, discovered within the Dinaledi Chamber of the Rising Star cave system, Cradle of Humankind, South Africa
    Photo credit: John Hawks, Wits University

  • Homo naledi: mandible occlusal view
    Photo credit: John Hawks, Wits University

  • Homo naledi: skull
    Photo credit: John Hawks, Wits University

  • Homo naledi
    Photo credit: John Hawks, Wits University

  • Homo naledi skeletal specimens. The “skeleton” layout in the center of the photo is a composite of elements that represent multiple individuals.
    Photo credit: John Hawks, Wits University

About the Hominin

Name: Homo naledi

Location: South Africa

How it made the Top 10: Fossil remains of this previously unknown species of the genus Homo represent at least 15 different individuals, the largest collection of remains of a single species of hominin ever discovered on the African continent. Anatomical features of this new hominin found in South Africa are a mixture of those of Australopithecus with other Homo species, combined with several features not known in any hominin species. Features shared with other Homo species include complex functional locomotion, manipulation and mastication systems. Similar in size and weight to a modern human, and with humanlike hands and feet, the new species has a braincase more similar in size to earlier ancestors living 2 million to 4 million years ago, as well as shoulders, pelvis, and ribcage more closely resembling earlier hominins than modern humans. The exact age of the remains, once determined, will have implications for the early history of our genus.

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Primates

Family: Hominidae

Size: Similar in size to a small modern human, 144.5 to 147.8 cm (just under 5 feet)

Etymology: The word naledi means "star" in the Sotho language and refers to the Dinaledi Chamber's location within the Rising Star cave system.

Type locality: South Africa, Gauteng Province, Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, Rising Star cave system, Dinaledi chamber

Holotype: Evolutionary Studies Institute, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

More information: Homo naledi, a new species of the genus Homo from the Dinaledi Chamber, South Africa. eLife 2015. DOI: 10.7554/eLife.09560

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