New species of ancient human discovered in Philippines

Katie Ramirez
April 13, 2019

Scientists have discovered a long-lost cousin of modern humans by analyzing fossil teeth and bones found in the Philippines.

Filipino archeologist Armand Salvador Mijares talks about the fossil bones and teeth they recovered from Callao Cave belonging to a new species they called Homo Luzonensis during a press conference in metropolitan Manila, Philippines on Thursday, April 11, 2019.

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.

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.

Experts discovered the ancient remains of several feet and hand bones, a partial thigh bone, and teeth from at least three individuals in the Callao Cave, located in northern Luzon.

It's yet another reminder that, although Homo sapiens is now the only surviving member of our branch of the evolutionary tree, we've had company for most of our existence.

The scientists said they could not rule out the possibility that the arrival of our species in the region contributed to the demise of Homo luzonensis.

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It's known as Homo luzonensis, after the site of its discovery on the country's largest island Luzon.

And it makes our understanding of human evolution in Asia "messier, more complicated and whole lot more interesting", says Matthew Tocheri of Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ont.

"In our disciplines, you can never expect to find a new species - this is a very rare event", said study lead author Florent Détroit, a paleoanthropologist at France's National Museum of Natural History in Paris.

They are now the earliest human remains found in the Philippines. They have been dated to between 67,000 years and 50,000 years ago. Australopithecus lived between 2.9 million and 3.9 million years ago. It might have been the newfound species or an ancestor of it, he said in an email.

The discovery of two unusual species of early human in the past two decades are making paleontologists wonder about the history of humanity. And maybe another as-yet unknown creature (other than H. erectus) slipped out of Africa to later give rise to the newly discovered species. It seems as if a decent few - perhaps even more than three - species of human ancestor might have lived in the area at the time that our direct descendants arrived.

The discovery of Homo floresiensis and Homo luzonensis "really exposes how little we know about human evolution in Asia", Tocheri said. Some scientists have suggested that the hobbits on the Indonesian island are descended from H. erectus.

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