New species of ancient human unearthed in the Philippines

first_img © CALLAO CAVE ARCHAEOLOGY PROJECT New species of ancient human unearthed in the Philippines Email Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) A strange new species may have joined the human family. Human fossils found in a cave on Luzon, the largest island in the Philippines, include tiny molars suggesting their owners were small; curved finger and toe bones hint that they climbed trees. Homo luzonensis, as the species has been christened, lived some 50,000 to 80,000 years ago, when the world hosted multiple archaic humans, including Neanderthals and Denisovans, and when H. sapiens may have been making its first forays into Southeast Asia.“This is a truly sensational finding,” says Adam Brumm, an archaeologist at Griffith University in Nathan, Australia. The paper, published this week in Nature, “sent shivers down my spine.”The discovery echoes that of another unusual ancient hominin—the diminutive H. floresiensis, or “hobbit,” found on the island of Flores in Indonesia. “One is interesting. Two is a pattern,” says Jeremy DeSilva, an expert on Homo foot bones at Dartmouth College. He and others suspect the islands of Southeast Asia may have been a cradle of diversity for ancient humans, and that H. luzonensis, like H. floresiensis, may have evolved small body size in isolation on an island. By Lizzie WadeApr. 10, 2019 , 1:00 PM Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country © CALLAO CAVE ARCHAEOLOGY PROJECT 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, says Florent Détroit, a paleoanthropologist at the Museum of Man in Paris who worked with Mijares. That’s even smaller than those of H. floresiensis. Tooth size tends to correlate with body size, so it’s possible that H. luzonensis itself was tiny, Détroit says. But only a complete arm or leg bone will say for sure.The long, curved fingers and toes resemble those of australopithecines like Lucy, an early human ancestor thought to have both walked upright and swung through the trees. “This is a very strong indication of climbing,” says paleoanthropologist Tracy Kivell, who studies hand bones at the University of Kent in Canterbury, U.K.Not everyone is ready to embrace these teeth and skeletal fragments as a separate species, rather than a locally adapted population of, say, H. erectus, an older hominin that lived in Asia for millennia.“I see what they’re saying, but at the same time, I want more,” says Susan Antón, a paleoanthropologist at New York University in New York City. A skull bone could clinch the case for a new species, as could ancient DNA. But DNA breaks down fast in hot, humid conditions like those at the cave, and the fossils have not yielded genetic material.Regardless of whether H. luzonensis was its own species, it may have evolved in isolation for hundreds of thousands of years. Butchered rhino bones on Luzon date to 700,000 years ago, though researchers don’t yet know which human species was responsible.Mijares is already back in the field. Many more pieces of the human story could be hidden on Southeast Asia’s islands. When it comes to human evolution, Antón says, “We know a lot less than we thought we did.” Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe Teeth show a new find is Homo. In 2007, a team led by Armand Mijares, a paleoanthropologist at the University of the Philippines in Quezon City, found a metatarsal—one of the bones that runs along the top of the foot—in Callao Cave on Luzon. The shape of the bone clearly marked its owner as a member of our genus, the team reported in 2010. The ratio of uranium to its decay products in the bone revealed its probable age range, between 50,000 and 80,000 years old, with a likely minimum age of about 67,000 years. Intrigued, Mijares’s team went back in 2011 and 2015—and excavated what he calls a fossil “bonanza.”In the same layer as the metatarsal, the team discovered five teeth from the right upper jaw of the same individual, two isolated teeth, two finger bones, two toe bones, and a broken femur. The bones represent at least three individuals, the team says, all presumably from the same species. About 67,000 years ago, Callao Cave on Luzon in the Philippines was home to an unusual human.last_img read more