Rather than a missing link, this find further confuses the narrative of evolution to the point where anthropologists are starting to admit they don't have a clue. I'm sure they will force fit these bones into the accepted model one way or another thought
Ya know, the concept of "missing links" and "straightforward ladder-like evolution " of humans has long been dismissed. What you miss in the quotes by Eldredge is that they claim that we would probably never understand the complexities of how evolution is displayed by the use of fossils as the only means of determining phylogenetic relationships from which we conclude ancestry.
It nicely harkens back to one of Mayr's keen observations that(and I paraphrase)
We can pretty accurately claim that the phylogenetic type section (the location of a species origin) is always within the geographic area where the most of the varied fossils of the supersedious genera are found.
Im always amazed at how some interested folks can passively accept that all the 10' s of thousands of trilobite species were going somewhere evolution-wise yet we seem to be puzzled at how the "ancient" Homo sp fossils all seem to lie upon a line that stretches both geographically and temporally from the Horn of Africa(Herto) to the Blombo in S africa,( where both the Taung and Blombo sites lie on the line )Which also contains the H. naledi cavern site.Its a 2 million year old stratigrqphic"line" about as long as the continental US (if we add the entire length of the Aleutian Islands to the line) . 99% of all the post- Pithecenes were found on this line (save the Java "man" specimen which Dubois tried to argue for an Asian homeland)
The fossil structures of all the Australopithecus and Homo can be grouped according to their structural features that are common according to the several hundred thousand years durations that include all these fossils.(eg H Rudolfensis and H habilis shared a common time and common skull and torso features that were primitive compared to later Homo and which were modified for larger brain cases of the later H antesessor and H ERgaster. By the time we reached 1 mya we hqve upwrds of at least 5 African species of Homo.(including sapiens) (Ive not included H neanderthlensis because H neander... lived from almost 1mya to well past the 50K K period and was an example of an earlier migration east and North (H ergastershoulda been called H shuffelensis). He was a walker . The species H georgiensis is most like H ergaster and occured a few tens of thousands of year later)
Weve got time lines of occurences of all these guys so doing any informed speculation on a chain of descent or evolutionary significance isnt a shot in the dark. As more and more fossils with good dates pop up, the fuzz clears up nicely.
Trouble is, New York Times "Science Tuesday"likes to simplify and just give you the shiny stuff and not the radiological and stratigraphic grunt work that, of necessity, continually goes on and provides the important boundaries of time for these critters.