Mysterious hominid had neural features associated with social emotions and communication, researchers claim
NEW ORLEANS — A relatively small brain can pack a big evolutionary punch. Consider Homo naledi, a famously puzzling fossil species in the human genus. Despite having a brain only slightly larger than a chimpanzee’s, H. naledi displays key humanlike neural features, two anthropologists reported April 20 at the annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.
Those brain characteristics include a region corresponding to Broca’s area, which spans parts of the right and left sides of the brain in present-day people. The left side is typically involved in speech and language.
“It looks like Homo naledi’s brain evolved a huge amount of shape change that supported social emotions and advanced communication of some type,” said Shawn Hurst of Indiana University Bloomington, who presented the new findings. “We can&rsquo