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Previously Unknown Human Species Discovered in the Philippines

April 10, 2019 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

Beneath the rocky floor of Callao Cave on Luzon island in the Philippines, researchers have uncovered a number of fossils from what they believe is a previously unknown ancient human species.

Dubbed Homo luzonensis, the newly identified species inhabited Luzon more than 50,000 years ago, during the Late Pleistocene epoch. This means they shared the Earth with other relatively advanced hominins, including Homo neanderthalensis (a.k.a. , they trace the remains to three different individuals, including at least one juvenile.

The fossils found in the cave—including several foot and hand bones, a partial femur and teeth—shared some morphological features with more primitive hominin species such as Australopithecus and Homo erectus, as well as more advanced ones, including Homo sapiens and Homo floresiensis.

“What makes them a new species is actually the combination of all features taken together,” Détroit said in an email interview. “If you take each feature one by one, you will of course find it in one or several hominin species. But if you take the whole package, no other species of the genus Homo is similar, thus indicating that they belong to a new species.”

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Molars and premlars found of the Homo luzonensis.

In particular, the teeth found in Callao Cave differ from those of other known hominin species. The premolars have two to three roots, while in Homo sapiens, premolars usually have only one root, or two at the most. These distinct premolars, as well as the tooth enamel and dentin (the hard bony tissue that makes up the body of the tooth) are similar to Australopithecus and more ancient species of the genus Homo, such as Homo habilis and Homo erectus.

On the other hand, the molars are very small and simply formed, like those of modern humans. “An individual with these characteristics combined cannot be classified in any of the species known today,” said Détroit.

The foot bones identified as Homo luzonensis also stand out for their combination of primitive and developed features, which indicates members of the species might have had a distinctive way of walking. The proximal phalanx (which forms the base of the toe) is curved, with highly developed insertions for the muscles involved in the flexion of the foot.

“These characteristics do not exist in Homo sapiens,” Détroit pointed out. In fact, the foot bones found in Callao Cave are …read more


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