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Palaeoanthropology

Early human with a familiar handshake

A recently discovered early human species probably walked upright and wielded tools, but also took to the trees.

Credit: Peter Schmid/Will Harcourt-Smith

Last month, researchers reported the discovery of fossil bones from at least 15 individuals of a species they named Homo naledi. A team led by Tracy Kivell at the University of Kent in Canterbury, UK, has analysed nearly 150 hand bones from the find, including a complete right hand (pictured, left). The hands resemble those of Homo sapiens, Neanderthals and other regular tool-users, although the long, curved fingers suggest that H. naledi was comfortable in trees.

In a separate study, William Harcourt Smith at the City University of New York and Jeremy DeSilva at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, looked at 107 foot bones, including a nearly complete right foot (pictured, right), and concluded that H. naledi strode upright. However, the feet still had some primitive features: certain toe bones were more curved than are those of modern humans.

Nature Commun. 6, 8431; 6, 8432 (2015)

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Early human with a familiar handshake. Nature 526, 297 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/526297a

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