2018 preview: Get ready to meet your newest long-lost ancestor

Fossils from our ancient relatives have been turning up at an increasing rate, and rumours are rife that the next new species is about to drop

The 21st century has so far been a golden age of hominin discovery. New species like the 7-million-year-old Sahelanthropus tchadensis and the 300,000-year-old Homo naledi have added to our understanding of humanity’s past. And the finds will keep coming.

“It doesn’t look like [we’re] sampling something that is running out,” says John Hawks at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “I think in part there’s a greater intensity of exploration right now.”

There’s a good chance that a new species will be revealed in 2018, with rumours swirling of two major finds that could answer many questions.

“Undoubtedly, the biggest gap is between 4 and 7 million years,” says Fred Spoor at University College London. “It’s a huge amount of time that’s so far represented by just a few bits and bobs.” Any hominins from that period are almost certainly new species, and could reveal the earliest stages of hominin