Scientists discover possible new human species in South Africa

Sep 11, 2015, 8:00 AM | Updated: 4:10 pm

A composite skeleton of Homo naledi surrounded by some of the hundreds of other fossil elements dis...

A composite skeleton of Homo naledi surrounded by some of the hundreds of other fossil elements displayed in Magaliesburg, South Africa, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015. Scientists say they've discovered a new member of the human family tree, revealed by a huge trove of bones in a barely accessible, pitch-dark chamber of a cave in South Africa, showing a surprising mix of human-like and more primitive characteristics. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

(AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

LISTEN: ASU professor discovers possible new human species in South Africa

PHOENIX — Scientists think they might have found a new human species in South Africa. It’s the largest find of human and human-related fossils in Africa’s history, with more than 1,500 pieces making up at least 15 individuals.

Kaye Reed, professor at the Arizona State University Institute of Human Origins, said the fossils could answer many questions related to the anatomy of ancient humans.

“The coolest thing about this find is that there are so many individuals from a particular time period,” she said. “So you can start looking at things like, what is the difference between males and females and how big is the brain size?”

Professor Reed was part of the team that recently found the oldest known human fossil, a jaw-bone almost 3 million years old, during a different find in Ethiopia.

These discoveries could help fill in some of the puzzling gaps along the evolutionary tree, she said.

“So this new find just continues to show us that we don’t know everything, and that we continue discover pieces in the puzzle of how we became human,” she said.

Reed said she believes the discovery is exciting because everyone will have to look at this and start worrying about the date and seeing how is compares to other fossil material.

“So you can put it on the branch that it belongs and the time period in which it belongs,” she said.

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Scientists discover possible new human species in South Africa