New species related to humans discovered

Mindy Sparks
April 13, 2019

The cave where the fossils which may belong to a new hominin species were found. Credit: CALLAO CAVE ARCHAEOLOGY PROJECT. The researchers dubbed the new species Homo luzonensis after the island on which it was found. The new species is called Homo luzonensis after the main northern island of Luzon, where the remains were dug up starting in 2007.

But the theory has been challenged by discoveries in recent years of species that do not appear to be descended from Homo erectus, including Homo floresiensis, the so-called "hobbit" found in 2004 on an Indonesian island.

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.

In a paper presented Wednesday in the journal Nature, researchers said two of the specimens were at least 50,000 years and 67,000 years old.

It's yet another reminder that, although Homo sapiens is now the only surviving member of our branch of the evolutionary tree, we've had company for most of our existence.

The presence of Homo luzonensis on an island suggests its ancestors were seafaring.

Fossil bones and teeth found in the Philippines have revealed a long-lost cousin of modern people, which evidently lived around the time our own species was spreading from Africa to occupy the rest of the world.

"In our disciplines, you can never expect to find a new species - this is a very rare event", said study lead author Florent Détroit, a paleoanthropologist at France's National Museum of Natural History in Paris.

It was a different story 50,000 years ago, when several varieties of hominin co-existed.

It's becoming clear to experts that early humans came in a lot more shapes and sizes than they once thought. Stone tools and butchered remains of a rhinoceros suggested hominin activity on Luzon dating back at least 709,000 years.

It is now unknown how the species went extinct, but as is the case with most extinctions, scholars believe we may have had something to do with it. It might have been the newfound species or an ancestor of it.

"And that was what told us, among other things, that this doesn't correspond to what we know today, so we have described a new species".

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".

So far archaeologists have found fossil hand and foot bones, a thigh bone and seven.

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 sole representative of the first wave was thought to have been Homo erectus, which spread across the globe more than 1.5 million years ago.

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