New human species found in Philippines

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A new human species called Homo luzonesis has been discovered by a team led by University of the Philippines associate professor Armand Salvador Mijares from fossils excavated in Callao Cave in Peñablanca, Cagayan. The new species were named luzonensis because of the place where the fossils were found in the island of Luzon.

Bones recovered from Callao Cave belonging to a new specie scientists called Homo luzonensis are presented to reporters in metropolitan Manila, Philippines on Thursday, April 11, 2019.

Fifteen years ago, scientists revealed an unusual extinct human species from the Indonesian island of Flores - Homo floresiensis, often called "the hobbit" due to its diminutive size, which lived on Earth during the same time as modern humans.

The fossilized bones, dated to between 67,000 and 50,000 years ago, feature a mix of anatomical characteristics, some that recall more primitive hominins and others similar to those of more modern human species. The new species raises many questions, including who were its ancestors and how did it move?

They consist of thirteen remains - teeth, hand and foot bones, as well as part of a femur - that belong to at least three adult and juvenile individuals.

The fossils came from a cave on the island of Luzon.

"Our picture of hominin evolution in Asia. just got even messier, more complicated and a whole lot more interesting".

Testing revealed that the specimens lived at least 50,000 to 67,000 years ago, during the Late Pleistocene epoch, when the world swung between ice ages and warmer times.

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In particular, the teeth they found had a surprising combination of elements from different early humans.

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.

"It's a mixture that we haven't seen in other species", said Detroit.

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".

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

Détroit said it's not clear how H. luzonensis is related to other species of Homo. Some scientists have suggested that the hobbits on the Indonesian island are descended from H. erectus. "Before the discovery of this new species, we [the Philippines] were always in the periphery of human evolution debate".

Michael Petraglia of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, said the Luzon find "shows we still know very little about human evolution, particularly in Asia".

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