A new species of Homo from the Late Pleistocene of the Philippines

Homo luzonensis‘ species has been named after Luzon, the largest and most populous island of the Philippines, where the fossils were discovered in 2007, 2011 and 2015. Because of its unique mosaic of characteristics, scientists say the hominins warrant the definition of a new species.

This discovery adds new elements to theories of human dispersal. The finding is significant because it provides more evidence for the complexity of human evolution in East Asia.

Homo luzonensis was likely between 3 and 4 feet tall, as indicated by the size of its small jaw and teeth.

The teeth show a unique mosaic of traits found separately in other Homo species. The premolars are about the size of ours, but instead of a single root they have two or three—a primitive feature. The molars are much more modern, with single roots, but “incredibly small” at only 10 millimeters long and 8 millimeters across.

Some of Homo luzonensis’ features were primitive like Australopithecus and some were modern like the more advanced Homo genus, the researchers report.

The Southeast Asian islands were, almost at the same time, home to two small hominin species about 50-70 thousand years ago.

Unfortunately, DNA could not be extracted from the ancient bones.

The most astonishing aspect of the discovery seems to be the primitive Australopithecus-like aspects of the foot, utterly different from Homo sapiens’.

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Followingly, we present the ‘Abstract‘ of the paper related to the discovery, titled “A new species of Homo from the Late Pleistocene of the Philippines“, by Florent Détroit, Armand Salvador Mijares, Julien Corny, Guillaume Daver, Clément Zanolli, Eusebio Dizon, Emil Robles, Rainer Grün & Philip J. Piper.

Abstract:

A hominin third metatarsal discovered in 2007 in Callao Cave (Northern Luzon, the Philippines) and dated to 67 thousand years ago provided the earliest direct evidence of a human presence in the Philippines. Analysis of this foot bone suggested that it belonged to the genus Homo, but to which species was unclear. Here we report the discovery of twelve additional hominin elements that represent at least three individuals that were found in the same stratigraphic layer of Callao Cave as the previously discovered metatarsal. These specimens display a combination of primitive and derived morphological features that is different from the combination of features found in other species in the genus Homo (including Homo floresiensis and Homo sapiens) and warrants their attribution to a new species, which we name Homo luzonensis. The presence of another and previously unknown hominin species east of the Wallace Line during the Late Pleistocene epoch underscores the importance of island Southeast Asia in the evolution of the genus Homo.

(Source for the paper: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-019-1067-9)

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