June 24, 2019

Our growing family tree: New human ancestor discovered in Philippines cave

13 April 2019, 12:33 | Edward Lowe

Homo luzonensis toe bone

Homo luzonensis toe bone

The specimens of fossilized bone and teeth found in the cave were estimated to be 50,000-67,000 years old, suggesting this human cousin roamed the earth relatively recently on the evolutionary calendar.

Five fossil teeth from the same individual have unusual features that helped researchers determine that they might be dealing with a new species of human.

Professor Armand Mijares illustrates the similarities of the bones from the foot of the Homo Luzonensis during a press briefing at the University of the Philippines Science Auditorium on Thursday.

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".

The newest discovery challenges the fairly straightforward idea of human evolution.The traditional narrative suggests that homo sapiens evolved from the ancient species of homo erectus in Africa and dispersed from there around 50,000 years ago.

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New excavations in Callao Cave have unearthed seven teeth, two hand bones, one thigh bone and two more foot bones, which altogether came from at least two adults and one child.

The already entangled branches of human evolution have a new development.

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

Fossil bones and teeth found in the Philippines have revealed a long-lost cousin of modern people, which evidently lived around the time our own species was spreading from Africa to occupy the rest of the world. They have been dated to between 67,000 years and 50,000 years ago.

Yet another crucial question that researchers are pondering over is what caused the demise of these earliest forms of human species.

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But some human relative was on Luzon more than 700,000 years ago, as indicated by the presence of stone tools and a butchered rhino dating to that time, he said. They look more like what one what might find in Africa 1.5 to 2.5 million years ago, and which might have been carried out of that continent by the mystery species, he said. It might have been the newfound species or an ancestor of it.

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.

The discovery of a new human relative on Luzon might be "smoke from a much, much bigger fire", he said.

Détroit said it's not clear how H. luzonensis is related to other species of Homo.

"Arrival by accident ... is favored by many scholars, but this is mainly because of arguments like "Homo erectus were not clever enough to cross the sea on purpose", said Détroit.

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