Science

New species of human discovered in cave in Philippines

The bones of Homo luzonensis were discovered in Callao Cave, on the island of Luzon in the Philippines
The bones of Homo luzonensis were discovered in Callao Cave, on the island of Luzon in the Philippines
View 5 Images
The upper teeth of one Homo luzonensis individual
1/5
The upper teeth of one Homo luzonensis individual
Homo luzonensis was determined to be more than 50,000 years old
2/5
Homo luzonensis was determined to be more than 50,000 years old
The foot bones of Homo luzonensis appear to be quite similar to the ancient ancestor Australopithecus
3/5
The foot bones of Homo luzonensis appear to be quite similar to the ancient ancestor Australopithecus
The bones of Homo luzonensis were discovered in Callao Cave, on the island of Luzon in the Philippines
4/5
The bones of Homo luzonensis were discovered in Callao Cave, on the island of Luzon in the Philippines
Homo luzonensis shares different traits with many of its relatives, including Neanderthals, modern humans, and "Hobbit" humans
5/5
Homo luzonensis shares different traits with many of its relatives, including Neanderthals, modern humans, and "Hobbit" humans

A new species of human has been discovered in a cave in the Philippines. Named Homo luzonensis after the island of Luzon where it was found, the hominin appears to have lived over 50,000 years ago, painting a more complete picture of human evolution.

The new species is known from 12 bones found in Callao Cave, which are thought to be the remains of at least two adults and a juvenile. This includes several finger and toe bones, some teeth and a partial femur. While that might not sound like much to work with, scientists can use that to determine more than you might expect.

The upper teeth of one Homo luzonensis individual
The upper teeth of one Homo luzonensis individual

"There are some really interesting features – for example, the teeth are really small," says Professor Philip Piper, co-author of the study. "The size of the teeth generally, though not always, reflect the overall body-size of a mammal, so we think Homo luzonensis was probably relatively small. Exactly how small we don't know yet. We would need to find some skeletal elements from which we could measure body-size more precisely."

Even with those scattered bones, scientists are able to start slotting Homo luzonensis into the hominin family tree. Although it is a distinct species of its own, it does share different traits with many of its relatives, including Neanderthals, modern humans, and most notably Homo floresiensis – the "Hobbit" humans discovered in an Indonesian cave in 2003. But perhaps the strangest family resemblance is to the Australopithecus, a far more ancient ancestor of ours.

Homo luzonensis shares different traits with many of its relatives, including Neanderthals, modern humans, and "Hobbit" humans
Homo luzonensis shares different traits with many of its relatives, including Neanderthals, modern humans, and "Hobbit" humans

"It's quite incredible, the hand and feet bones are remarkably Australopithecine-like," says Piper. "The Australopithecines last walked the Earth in Africa about 2 million years ago and are considered to be the ancestors of the Homo group, which includes modern humans. So, the question is whether some of these features evolved as adaptations to island life, or whether they are anatomical traits passed down to Homo luzonensis from their ancestors over the preceding 2 million years."

The research was published in the journal Nature.

Sources: Griffith University, Australian National University

7 comments
exodous
This is an example of all the old bones being thrown on the human side of the tree rather than any on the Gorilla or Chimpanzee sides. It's funny, but the creationists think humans just appeared but evolutionists think the Gorilla and Chimpanzees just appeared.
midas
@exodous, Good observation. We tend to think kind of linearly, regardless of our discipline or beliefs. Like you, I believe there were likely hundreds of variations on a theme when it comes to where evolution has led us today.
SimonClarke
If it had Australopithecine type of feet then it is a relative of the ape. All Hominid feet are broad and flat and they walked with a flat step rather than our human heel to toe motion. I'm impressed with the first two comments. We, the people, are getting more knowledgeable. in fact, everything we know is wrong...
highlandboy
Since the definition of species relys on it not being able to breed fertile offspring with another related species, it is in fact impossible to define whether these similar related “species” are in fact true species or not. This is more story telling than science.
Douglas Jack
In the back of the modern institutionally-indoctrinated & behaviour-modified mind is that pervasive compliant-colonial thought, 'Oh but we are so much smarter now!'. Its as though our oligarch masters or their agents have a permanent presence inside our minds, perhaps behind our left-ear. Richard & Mary Leaky in their anthropological work in Africa cautioned against modern day ego-projection upon the fragments of bones we recover. Jane Goodall one of the Leaky apprentices has done wonderful work opening up our minds to the greater mystery of life. Nevertheless such projection is so rampant in the modern psyche including that of colonial anthropologists & archaeologists, the projection will already have been established in the minds of most. I hope we can open our minds in observation without judgement or projection to learn from our Homo luzonensis ancestors to grow somewhat as a species today. We need to act & think of ourselves as part of whole systems, whole peoples living with interdependent complementary collective intelligence. We need to learn how to as Spock puts it 'meld-our-minds-together', if we are to exit the mess we have created.
RangerJones
Is this scientific evidence of transitional form? Is it another complete form just a tad different than others? Why would they not find hundreds? Tens? Just this one so far or forever? Now we're going to name a "species" after an island it was found on? This is evidence for the dogmatic beliefs of ones who believe already. About all I know is that I don't know and neither do 'they'.
Nik
Mammals have existed for around 200 million years, so when the majority of hominids found so far, are all less than 4-5 million years old, and at present we are the last to develop, I wonder if hominids could have come and gone several times in the last 200 million years.