The mysterious human ancestor called Homo naledi was primed for success in a prehistoric triathlon, new research shows—if the challenges were walking upright, climbing trees, and handily wielding tools.
Based on fossils retrieved from South Africa’s Rising Star cave, two teams reconstructed the locomotor habits of Homo naledi
, reported Tuesday in Nature Communications
. With funding from National Geographic, one took a close look at 107 foot bones
, the other at 26 bones from a nearly complete right hand
In most respects, the H. naledi foot looks surprisingly like a modern human’s. Its ankle joint, parallel big toe and wide heel bone belong to a striding biped, a creature fully adapted to efficiently walking upright on two legs. But its lower arch and curved toe bones are more ape-like.
The hand, with its curved fingers, indicates that H. naledi were strong climbers—and yet the long, strong thumb and shock-absorbing wrist could also have been capable of manipulating tools (though no tools have been found yet).
It’s a mix of features scientists hadn’t seen clearly yet in the genus Homo, to which modern humans belong, particularly when it comes to H. naledi’s pronounced arboreal proclivities.
“H. naledi had a unique form of locomotion for a member of the genus Homo,” says study author William Harcourt-Smith of CUNY’s Lehman College.source : http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/10/151006-homo-naledi-human-hands-feet-science-anthropology/