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Despite the fact that the extinct species of people Homo naledi the brain by volume was about the same as in Australopithecus, morphologically it was more like the brain of ancient people, such as Homo habilis and Homo erectus, reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Remains of at least 15 individuals of extinct species Homo naledi were found in 2013-2014 in the system of caves Rising Star in South Africa. Two years later anthropologists discovered the skeletons of three other representatives of the species. According to the anatomical structure, they were simultaneously similar to the anthropoid apes, and to humans. For example, their fingers were more like a monkey, and the structure of the foot more like a foot of sapiens. The frosts were not very tall, and their brain volume (460-550 milliliters) was about the same as that of Australopithecus. At the same time, the shape of the skull was more like Homo erectus. Scientists managed to determine the age of part of the remains: 335-235 thousand years; At this time, the continent already had early Homo sapiens.
In a new study, American and South African anthropologists, led by John Hawks of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, examined the morphology of the endocast (a relief on the inside of the skull that allows you to see large furrows and gyrus wounds) in several large fragments of ice skulls. Scientists have built 3D models of the surface of endocasts and compared them to the relief of the endocranes of Australopithecus of two species, and the brains of chimpanzees and modern humans.
It turned out that the shape of the endocrans of ice was similar to the endocasts of early humans (H. habilis, H. rudolfensis, H.floresiensis, H. erectus) and sapiens. In particular, all representatives of the genus Homo had a small orbitofrontal furrow, much shorter than that of chimpanzees and Australopithecus. Also in ice, as in the case of sapiens, asymmetry of the occipital lobe was observed, which is associated with the development of linguistic abilities. The researchers suggested that these features were in the last common ancestor of the genus Homo.
Based on the data that is available now, scientists can not say how naled has a small brain volume, or inherited from the last common ancestor, or as a result of secondary reduction.
Although research Homo naledi the anthropologists had time to study in detail the anatomy of small people, to build a three-dimensional map of the caves Rising Star, where the remains of ice were found, and to know their diet (presumably tubers and rhizomes with a lot of sand)