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'Homo Naledi' was handy with tools

The newly discovered human ancestor Homo Naledi might have uniquely adapted for both walking upright and tree climbing, while also being handy with tools, according to a new research.

Last month, the researchers announced the discovery of this unknown species in the human linage in a cave northwest of Johannesburg. The new research offers inputs into a species that is providing valuable clues about human evolution.

Homo Naledi boasted a hand specialized for fine, powerful manipulation and its thumb and wrist bones showed features shared with modern people and Neanderthals and suggested powerful grasping and the ability to employ stone tools, Paleoanthropologist Tracy Kivell of Britain's University of Kent said.

Its strongly curved fingers, instead of the straight ones of people and Neanderthals, indicated it regularly used its hands for climbing. The foot was largely like ours, especially in the ankle joint anatomy, the presence of a non-grasping big toe and the proportions of the region from the ankle to toes.

According to Dartmouth College anthropologist Jeremy DeSilva, it was well-adapted for long distance walking and perhaps running. The legs are long, the knees are like ours, and the feet are human-like.

Homo naledi would have been more proficient than modern humans in the trees based on its curved finger and toe bones, according to paleoanthropologist William Harcourt-Smith of Lehman College CUNY and New York's American Museum of Natural History.

Kivell said that its tool-friendly hand anatomy in combination with its small brain causes us to possibly rethink the cognitive requirements for tool use.

The research has been published in the journal Nature Communications.