New human species found in the Philippines

James Marshall
April 11, 2019

The species, dubbed Homo luzonensis after the island of Luzon where its remains were found, is not a direct ancestor of modern day humans, but rather a distant ancient relative.

One scientist, Professor Chris Stringer, from the National History Museum, said: "After the remarkable finds of the diminutive Homo floresiensis were published in 2004, I said that the experiment in human evolution conducted on Flores could have been repeated on numerous other islands in the region".

Both small humans probably shrunk in a process called "island dwarfing" which occurs due to limited resources when species are cut off from the mainland.

Archaeologists who discovered fossil bones and teeth of a previously unknown human species that thrived more than 50,000 years ago in the northern Philippines say they plan more diggings and better protection of the popular limestone cave complex where the remains were unearthed. Skeletons found were on average around 1.1 m (3 ft 7 in) tall, and dated to around 50,000 years, possibly overlapping the timeframe Homo luzonensis lived on Earth. "Our picture of hominin evolution in Asia. just got even messier, more complicated and a whole lot more interesting".

Homo luzonensis was a contemporary not only of the Hobbit but of our own species, Homo sapiens, which emerged in Africa roughly 300,000 years ago. There is no indication the two species interacted or were closely related.

The project team was led by Dr Armand Mijares of the University of the Philippines, and includes Dr. Florent Détroit of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris and researchers from the University of Bordeaux, Paul Sabatier University and the University of Poitiers in France, as well as Griffith University in Australia.

There's no sign that H. luzonensis encountered any other member of the Homo group, Detroit said in an email.

There are 13 bones, little more than a scattering in a cave in the Philippines. But he said the Philippines discovery gives new credence to an alternate view: Maybe some unknown creature other than H. erectus also slipped out of Africa and into Europe and Asia, and later gave rise to both island species.

In addition, H luzonensis had toes identical to those of Australopiethecus, a primitive species that lived in Africa at least two million years earlier.

Researchers are also as yet unsure which of the more ancient human precursors recorded in the fossil record in Africa Homo luzonensis may be descended from. Some scientists have suggested that the hobbits on the Indonesian island are descended from H. erectus.

The discovery of Homo luzonensis "provides yet more evidence that hints that H. erectus might not have been the only globe-trotting early hominin", wrote Tocheri.

They contain a mixture of old and new features that have excited scientists and threaten to overturn accepted theories of human evolution.

More such discoveries will probably emerge with further work in the region, which is under-studied, he said in an email.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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