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Visualizing Human Evolution with a New Ancient Human Species

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visualizing human evolution

A New Member of Human Evolution

The next step in understanding human evolution has brought forth the reclassification of some old names.

Mirjana Roksandic, Predrag Radovic, and their team of researchers propose a new human species called Homo bodoensis.

H. bodoensis isn’t a discovery of new fossils but a re-examination of old ones. This reclassification is an attempt to clean up long-standing confusion about our ancestors and how humans evolved.

The Muddle in the Middle

The Middle Pleistocene was a period spanning 780,000 to 126,000 years ago and had a lot of different human species existing at the time. These species included:

  • European Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis)
  • Asian Denisovans
  • African Homo heidelbergensis
  • African Homo rhodesiensis
  • African Homo erectus

The Middle Pleistocene was a lively time for human evolution, as it eventually spawned our species, Homo sapiens. Despite this bountiful presence of activity, our knowledge of human evolution during this age is lacking. This problem is known as “the Muddle in the Middle.”

Age-Old Thinking about Human Evolution

Human fossils from the Middle Pleistocene in Africa and Eurasia are usually classified as either Homo heidelbergensis or Homo rhodesiensis.

Homo heidelbergensis

H. heidelbergensis is an extinct species of human whose first fossil was found in a gravel pit in Germany in 1907. Since then, new-found fossils that did not fit the classification criteria of Neanderthals, H. sapiens, or the older H. erectus have been classified as H. heidelbergensis.

Roksandic and her team argue that this ‘lumping’ is a misattribution that muddles our understanding of which species H. sapiens originated from.

In addition, newer DNA evidence suggests that some H. heidelbergensis fossils from Europe originated from early Neanderthals. The name is, thus, redundant.

Homo rhodesiensis

Some believe that H. rhodesiensis is an extinct species of humans and the most recent ancestor of H. sapiens and Neanderthals.

Despite its importance, it never gained popularity in the paleoanthropology communities. This is because of its poor definition, but Roksandic supports its removal because it is also an alleged namesake to Rhodesia’s violent and aggressive colonizer, Cecil Rhodes.

It was high time for both H. heidelbergensis and H. rhodesiensis to go.

Homo bodoensis and What Changes in Human Evolution

Roksandic and her team suggest dissolving the two species to introduce a new merged species, H. bodoensis. The name derives from a 600,000-year-old skull discovered in 1976 in Bodo D’ar, Ethiopia.

All fossils previously classified as H. heidelbergensis and H. rhodesiensis originating in Africa are reclassified as H. bodoensis. As such, this now makes H. bodoensis our direct ancestor.

Fossils from Western Europe are reclassified as H. neanderthalensis to reflect the early appearance of Neanderthal-like traits. Asian fossils, like those from China, may belong to a different lineage.

A Doubted Legacy?

Despite its merits, not everyone agrees with this new proposal.

Renowned anthropologist Chris Stringer from the Natural History Museum of London says that the reshuffling of species is unnecessary.

While he agrees that the name H. heidelbergensis is used too loosely and should be confined to a few select fossils, he is happy to continue using H. rhodesiensis. He argues its namesake comes from the country, not from Cecil Rhodes himself.

In addition, Stinger says there are a variety of other species names to choose from before creating a new one. If H. rhodesiensis must be renamed, species like Homo saldanensis, named by Matthew Drennan in the 1950s from a fossilized skull, should take precedence.

Roksandic and her team reclassified H. saldanensis into H. bodoensis.

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This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.

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Misc

Ranked: The Most Reliable Car Brands in the U.S.

J.D. Power ranked the most reliable car brands in the U.S., based on the number owner-reported problems per 100 vehicles.

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Ranked: The Most Reliable Car Brands in the U.S.

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Reliability is one of the most important aspects to consider when buying a new vehicle, especially as cars become ever more technologically complex.

In this graphic, we visualize the results of J.D. Power’s 2024 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study, which ranked automakers by the number of problems per 100 vehicles (PP100).

Data and Methodology

To come up with this ranking, J.D. Power collected responses from 30,595 original owners of 2021 model-year vehicles after three years of ownership. Their study was fielded from August to November 2023, and covers nine categories of problems:

  • Exterior
  • Seats
  • The driving experience
  • Climate
  • Features/controls/displays
  • Interior
  • Infotainment
  • Powertrain
  • Driving Assistance

The data shown in this infographic is also listed in table below. Note that Tesla was not included because it did not meet study award criteria.

BrandProblems per 100 Vehicles
🇯🇵 Lexus135
🇯🇵 Toyota147
🇺🇸 Buick149
🇺🇸 Chevrolet174
🇬🇧 MINI174
🇩🇪 Porsche175
🇯🇵 Mazda185
🇰🇷 Kia187
🇩🇪 BMW190
🇺🇸 Dodge190
🇺🇸 Jeep190
Average190
🇺🇸 Cadillac196
🇰🇷 Hyundai198
🇯🇵 Subaru198
🇯🇵 Nissan199
🇰🇷 Genesis200
🇺🇸 Ram201
🇺🇸 GMC206
🇯🇵 Honda206
🇺🇸 Acura216
🇩🇪 Mercedes-Benz218
🇯🇵 Infiniti219
🇺🇸 Ford239
🇸🇪 Volvo245
🇺🇸 Lincoln251
🇩🇪 Volkswagen267
🇬🇧 Land Rover268
🇩🇪 Audi275
🇺🇸 Chrysler310

From this dataset, we can declare Toyota and its luxury arm, Lexus, as the most reliable car brands in the United States.

Compared to the other Japanese duos, Honda and Acura rank a distant 20th and 21st, with 206 and 216 PP100. Meanwhile, Nissan and Infiniti diverge, with the former ranking 16th (199 PP100) and Infiniti at 23rd (219 PP100).

The least reliable automaker in this ranking is Chrysler, which was also the only brand to surpass 300 problems per 100 vehicles. It’s worthy to note that for the 2021 model year (basis of this study), Chrysler only offered two models: the Pacifica/Voyager minivan, and the 300 sedan.

Infotainment Systems a Major Pain Point

According to J.D. Power’s study, “Infotainment” was the most common type of problem experienced by owners, with nearly twice as many problems as the second-highest category, “Exterior”.

Within the Infotainment category, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity was a frequent issue, as was built-in voice recognition.

See More Automotive Graphics From Visual Capitalist

If you enjoyed this post, check out Charted: Automaker Sales by Region in 2023 to see which markets are the most important for major car brands.

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