Long-lost cousin of modern humans found analyzing bones from Philippines cave

New human species found in the Philippines

New tiny human discovered which still swung in trees when Homo sapiens was walking tall

Scientists in the Philippines have discovered the remains of an entirely new extinct species of human in a cave.

Bones found in a Filipino cave reveal a previously unknown species of human which existed around 50,000 years ago.

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". In contrast, modern humans may have only begun dispersing from Africa roughly 200,000 years ago.

The discovery of the "Hobbit" fossil, representing the hominin species Homo floresiensis, on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2004, proved some of these experiments made their way to the isolated laboratories of Southeast Asian islands. Hominins are members of the human family tree that are more closely related to each other than to apes.

At the completion of excavations on the island of Luzon, scientists had unearthed several teeth, part of a thigh bone, and a few hand and foot bones.

The researchers from France, the Philippines and Australia found the remains in the Callao Cave, where a bone dating back 67,000 years was discovered in 2007. The size and shape of the teeth are definitely human, but the fossils possessed features that suggest they do not belong to any other known human lineage.

They dubbed the creature Homo luzonensis. Tests showed two of the fossil fragments had minimum ages of 50,000 years and 67,000 years, according to a study published by the scientific journal Nature.

The standard view holds that the first species of human to leave Africa was a large-bodied, fairly big-brained group called Homo erectus, nearly 2 million years ago.

"One thing can be said for certain", wrote Tocheri.

New human species found in the Philippines

The finger and toe bones are curved, suggesting they were good for climbing.

The seven premolars and molars are smaller and more simplified than those of other species.

Mijares, who led a small team of foreign and local archaeologists behind the rare discovery, said he plans to resume the diggings next year and hopes to find larger fossil bones, artifacts, and possibly stone tools used by people in those times.

The researchers reported that at least three individuals were found in Callao Cave, displaying a combination of primitive and derived morphological features different from the combination of features found in other species, including Homo floresiensis and Homo sapiens.

In recent years, the timeline of human evolution has shifted from being that of a simple tree as new species evolved and branched off, to something of a thicket. "These discoveries are showing what happened there was just as interesting as what occurred in Africa". However, there are hints Homo erectus was not the only globe-trotting hominin of its time - last year, stone tools were found in China that were 2.1 million years old, "and there are no known Homo erectus fossils that old", Tocheri noted.

Even the mouth combines an unusual mix of past and present: Some of the teeth look much like ours, while others are more like the teeth of ancestors that lived millions of years ago.

Future research may turn up DNA from these island fossils. "We could learn a lot about ancient hominins this way". "We agreed that this could probably be a new species", Mijares says.

Inside Science is an editorially-independent nonprofit print, electronic and video journalism news service owned and operated by the American Institute of Physics.

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