NEW YORK - South African scientists discovered a new human species last month, and a paleontologist in the Bronx is studying what are considered one of the most important parts of its body: the foot bones.
From his Lehman College lab, Dr. Will Harcourt Smith uses a state-of-the-art 3-D printer to study the bones that are still in South Africa by creating models of them.
Smith is the head of the international research team that is focusing on the foot of the new species, called homo naledi. He says that by examining the foot bones, they have discovered that homo naledi is more human-like than one would expect from a creature with otherwise primitive features.
He calls the discovery important because it changes the conversation of human evolution.
"Evolution is messy and complex and this is another piece of evidence that shows that," Smith says. "It's a game-changer, it makes us re-evaluate what it is to be human."
Scientists are yet to figure out when homo naledi walked the earth and how exactly they did it. Smith says he still has years of work ahead to unlock the species' secrets.