The recent discovery of 13 bones, including some teeth, has confirmed the existence of a new species of hominid: the Homo luzonensis, a mysterious ancestor who lived in a remote area of The Philippines.
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By Beatriz Esquivel
The Homo luzonensis roamed the planet about 67 thousand years ago, specifically in the island of Luzon, in modern-day The Philippines, which makes this discovery the first evidence of a hominid species in this part of the world.
The first finding was made in 2007. Later, in 2011 and 2015, more remains were found in Callao Cave, in the north of The Philippines. At first, the scientists thought they belonged to another hominid, but once they confirmed that the three skeletal remains came from the same soil substrate and that they shared similar characteristics, they knew they had found a new species.
a. Teeth of homo luzonensis; b. homo erectus; c. homo sapiens / Photo: Callao Cave Archeology Project / Sinc Agency
Homo luzonensis, named after the island where it was found, presents body features found in other known species, but the specific combination of these features makes it clear this is a different one. For example, their teeth were small (as our teeth are), but their long limb's bones resemble more those of australopithecus.
Another defining feature, something they shared with Homo floriesiensis or Flores Man, is height, because they were shorter than other hominids. This could be a result, in both cases, of the isolation of the species and other environmental variables. As for the isolation, it is still not clear how they arrived to the island.
Upper teeth row, from left to right, two premolar and three molar teeth. / Photo: Callao Cave Archaeology Project / Nature
Some scientists think that the origin of the luzonensis can be found in the wave of migrations of homo erectus, which led to the settlement of hominids throughout Asia. Others believe that it is an ancestor of none other than the australopithecus. The problem with these hypothesis is that the fossil record is very small and scientists haven't been able to extract DNA from the remains. These, however, have yielded enough material to hold the hypothesis of a new hominid species.
For now, scientists keep working on the research, and homo luzonensis is one of the latest enigmas of evolution, because they haven't been able to determine neither its origin nor the causes for its extinction.
Remains of a foot bone. / Photo: Rob Rownd, UP-ASP Film Ist / Nature
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