New species of human discovered in the Philippines

Nature introduces Homo luzonensis, who was hanging out – possibly with other human species – in a cave in the Philippines 50,000 years ago:

The first traces of the new species turned up more than a decade ago, when researchers reported the discovery of a foot bone dating to at least 67,000 years old in Callao Cave on the island of Luzon, in the Philippines. The researchers were unsure which species the bone was from, but they reported that it resembled that of a small Homo sapiens.

Further excavations of Callao Cave uncovered a thigh bone, seven teeth, two foot bones and two hand bones — with features unlike those of other human relatives, contends the team, co-led by Florent Détroit, a palaeoanthropologist at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris. The remains come from at least two adults and one child.

H. luzonensis is the second new human species to be identified in southeast Asia in recent years. In 2004, another group announced the discovery of Homo floresiensis — also known as the Hobbit — a species that would have stood just over a metre in height, on the Indonesian island of Flores.

The premolars discovered at Callao Cave are small but still in the range of those of H. sapiens and H. floresiensis. But the authors report that the overall size of the teeth, as well as the ratio between molar and premolar size, is distinct from those of other members of the genus Homo.

The shape of the H. luzonensis foot bones is also distinct. They most resemble those of Australopithecus — primitive hominins, including the famous fossil Lucy, thought not to have ever left Africa. Curves in the toe bones and a finger bone of H. luzonensis suggest that the species might have been adept at climbing trees.

[G]iven its small teeth, and the foot bone reported in 2010, Détroit thinks that its body size was within the range of small H. sapiens, such as members of some Indigenous ethnic groups living on Luzon and elsewhere in the Philippines today, sometimes known collectively as the Philippine Negritos.

[G]iven the species’ similarities to Australopithecus, [Lakehead University paleoanthropologist Matthew] Tocheri wonders whether the Callao Cave dwellers descended from a line that migrated out of Africa before H. erectus.

In other words, if these guys were their own evolutionary offshoot going back from before humans really looked *human*. One way or another, they were unique.