The announcement in September of a new species of hominin – Homo naledi, whose fossilized remains were found in a South African cave – made headlines around the world.
Zachary Throckmorton, who earned his UIndy master’s degree in human biology in 2007 and teaches anatomy at Tennessee’s Lincoln Memorial University, was among the select international group of scientists who were invited to study the specimens and co-author the first published analyses.
Homo naledi apparently interred the bodies of its dead, a practice once thought exclusive to modern humans, and it was built to walk upright, according to Throckmorton, a specialist in human gait and the development of the lower extremities. Other characteristics, however, are distinctively different from today’s anatomy.
“The part that I work on, the foot and ankle, is very modern,” says Throckmorton, who wrote on the topic for the journal “Nature Communications.” “Whereas, say, the shoulder joint is not modern-like at all, and anyone can see the differences.”
Throckmorton’s presentation, “Homo Naledi Strides Again,” is at 5 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 19, at Schwitzer Student Center, 1400 E. Hanna Ave. Admission is free and open to the public. Attendees are asked to register in advance at http://homonaledi.eventbrite.com.
The fossils were first uncovered in 2013 in a cave known as Rising Star, near Johannesburg, on expeditions led by Lee Berger, a research professor at the nearby University of the Witwatersrand. Throckmorton got involved by responding to a public call for up-and-coming scientists with particular specialties to join in the analysis of the specimens.