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Science Breakthroughs of 2015: Homo Naledi

December 29, 2015

Science Breakthroughs of 2015: The discovery of an extinct human species in a South African cave made headlines this year.



A mysterious new human. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

This week, we’re counting down to the Breakthrough of the Year, according to Science magazine’s editors. Today: Homo naledi, the newest member on the human branch of the evolutionary tree. Two spelunkers first discovered the fossils in a South African cave. But only the smallest of field workers could fit inside to retrieve the bones, which came from 15 separate individuals. Science deputy news editor Robert Koontz says their age remains a mystery.

ROBERT COONTZ (Science magazine):

They’re very strange, their wrists are kind of modern looking. Their skeletons suggest they walked upright, but they had small brains; their fingers were long and curving as if they were still maybe climbing trees. Nobody was expecting to find anybody who looked anything remotely like this.


And one of the biggest mysteries of all: what were they doing in the cave in the first place? I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.