New Hominin Shakes the Family Tree—Again
Evolutionary anthropologist John Hawks shares his thoughts on the meaning of the latest discovery in the human family tree: a previously undiscovered new species of human relatives named Homo luzonensis after the island in the Philippines where they lived.
This post to the Sapiens.org anthropology blog, puts the finding in perspective: over the past 20 years there’s been a boom of unprecedented new discoveries. Not all may merit the label “new species” but they speak to many-branched human tree and many opportunities for new exploration.
The Homo luzonensis findings were first reported in Nature:
ABSTRACT: A hominin third metatarsal discovered in 2007 in Callao Cave (Northern Luzon, the Philippines) and dated to 67 thousand years ago provided the earliest direct evidence of a human presence in the Philippines. Analysis of this foot bone suggested that it belonged to the genus Homo, but to which species was unclear. Here we report the discovery of twelve additional hominin elements that represent at least three individuals that were found in the same stratigraphic layer of Callao Cave as the previously discovered metatarsal. These specimens display a combination of primitive and derived morphological features that is different from the combination of features found in other species in the genus Homo (including Homo floresiensis and Homo sapiens) and warrants their attribution to a new species, which we name Homo luzonensis. The presence of another and previously unknown hominin species east of the Wallace Line during the Late Pleistocene epoch underscores the importance of island Southeast Asia in the evolution of the genus Homo.