Fossils of extinct human species Homo luzonensis found on Philippine island

Olive Hawkins
April 13, 2019

Filipino archeologist Armand Salvador Mijares shows a femur bone, one of those they recovered from Callao Cave belonging to a new specie they called Homo luzonensis, during a press conference in metropolitan Manila, Philippines on Thursday, April 11, 2019.

The finger and toe bones are curved, suggesting climbing was still an important activity for this species.

The discovery of the "Hobbit" fossil, representing the hominin species Homo floresiensis, on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2004, proved some of these experiments made their way to the isolated laboratories of Southeast Asian islands. "Now knowing there were all these other hominins surviving 50,000 to 100,000 years ago - Neanderthals and Denisovans, Homo floresiensis and now Homo luzonensis - reveals how much diversity we've lost", said paleoanthropologist Matthew Tocheri at Lakehead University in Ontario, who did not take part in this research. 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.

The already entangled branches of human evolution have a new development. "Homo luzonensis is one of those species and we will [increasingly see] that a few thousand years back in time, Homo sapiens was definitely not alone on Earth".

Toe bone - the proximal phalanx - from Homo luzonensis, a specimen of early human recently found in a Philippines cave.

"As for the fate of luzonensis, it is too early to say whether the spread of Homo sapiens into the region at least 50,000 years ago might have been a factor in its disappearance", he said.

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Homo luzonensis apparently used stone tools and its small teeth suggest it might have been rather small-bodied, said one of the study authors, Florent Détroit of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris.

Prof Chris Stringer, from London's Natural History Museum, commented: "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".

"It's a mixture that we haven't seen in other species", said Detroit. He speculated that it might have descended from an earlier human relative, Homo erectus, that somehow crossed the sea to Luzon. A new species of ancient human has been discovered in a cave in the Philippines.

"The hand and foot bones look so australopith, you could drop them in a box with Australopithecus afarensis bones 3 million to 4 million years old and you couldn't tell them apart", Tocheri said.

After all, he said in an interview, remains of the hobbits and H. luzonensis show a mix of primitive and more modern traits that differ from what's seen in H. erectus.

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