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Remains of new human species found in Philippines
This a breakthrough discovery in the study of human evolution.
An international team of scientists has discovered a new species of humans in the Philippines, suggesting that the region played a major part in the history of human evolution. The new species, Homo luzonesis is named after the island of Luzon, where more than 50,000-year-old fossils were discovered during the Callao Cave excavations.
Professor Philip Piper from The Australian National University (ANU), who is also the co-author and leader of the team, said that the findings are a major breakthrough in the study of human evolution across Southeast Asia. The researchers found the remains of at least two adults and one juvenile within the same deposit.
"The fossil remains included adult finger and toe bones, as well as teeth. We also recovered a child's femur. There are some really interesting features - for example, the teeth are really small," Professor Piper said.
"The size of the teeth generally, though not always, reflect the overall body-size of a mammal, so we think Homo luzonensis was probably relatively small. Exactly how small we don't know yet. We would need to find some skeletal elements from which we could measure body-size more precisely."
"It's quite incredible, the extremities, that is the hand and feet bones are remarkably Australopithecine-like. The Australopithecines last walked the earth in Africa about 2 million years ago and are considered to be the ancestors of the Homo group, which includes modern humans."
"So, the question is whether some of these features evolved as adaptations to island life, or whether they are anatomical traits passed down to Homo luzonensis from their ancestors over the preceding 2 million years."
There are a lot of unanswered questions around the origins of this new species, and their longevity on Luzon Island. The Callao Cave produced evidence of a butchered rhino and tools carved out of stone dating back to around 700,000 years ago.
"No hominin fossils were recovered, but this does provide a timeframe for a hominin presence on Luzon. Whether it was Homo luzonensis butchering and eating the rhinoceros remains to be seen," Professor Piper said.
"It makes the whole region really significant. The Philippines is made up of a group of large islands that have been separated long enough to have potentially facilitated archipelago speciation. There is no reason why archaeological research in the Philippines couldn't discover several species of hominin. It's probably just a matter of time."
Previously, scientists discovered 250-year-old reptile fossils are giving new insights into what would it be like for the "Antarctic King."