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Fossils of extinct human species Homo luzonensis found on Philippine island

13 April 2019

The new hominid, named Homo luzonensis after the island of Luzon, in the Philippines, where its bones were found, stood less than 4ft tall and probably still spent time swinging from trees.

Right upper teeth of an individual of the newly identified species Homo luzonensis, found in Callao Cave on Luzon Island.

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.

That would make it the second species of diminutive human to be found in south-east Asia; in 2007 scientists announced the discovery of Homo floresiensis, found on the island of Flores in Indonesia and nicknamed the hobbit.

From these, they can determine that Homo luzonensis would have been pretty similar to us, but also sharing some characteristics with other upright walking apes called australopithecines who were in Africa several million years ago.

It is still not known whether the new species represent earlier dispersals from Africa than Homo erectus, or whether they are descendants who later shrank and evolved new anatomical traits.

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

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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A handout image made available by Florent Detroit and taken on August 9, 2011 shows a view of the excavation in the Callao Cave in the north of Luzon Island, in the Philippines, where an worldwide multidisciplinary team discovered a new hominin species, Homo Luzonensis.

The creature apparently used stone tools and its small teeth suggest it might have been rather small-bodied.

It was a different story 50,000 years ago, when several varieties of hominin co-existed. The ancient humans may have been brought there by a natural disaster such a as tsunami, but it's possible they set out to sea intentionally using some form of a raft. It might have been the newfound species or an ancestor of it, he said in an email.

With more evidence to examine, from at least three individuals, they were able to build the case that the remains came from a previously unknown type of human. That means human relatives may have struck out from the big continent far earlier than was previously understood.

"The hand and foot bones look so australopith, you could drop them in a box with Australopithecus afarensis bones 3 million to 4 million years old and you couldn't tell them apart", Tocheri said. Some scientists have suggested that the hobbits on the Indonesian island are descended from H. erectus. "Before, we're just peripheral in this debate of human evolution".

After all, he said in an interview, remains of the hobbits and H. luzonensis show a mix of primitive and more modern traits that differ from what's seen in H. erectus.

The discovery of Homo floresiensis and Homo luzonensis "really exposes how little we know about human evolution in Asia", Tocheri said.

Fossils of extinct human species Homo luzonensis found on Philippine island