Science/Tech

Hominid Discovery 2019: Fossils In Philippine Cave Suggest New Species

According to a new report filed by researchers, a new member of the human genus has apparently been found in a cave located in the Philippine archipelago.

The fossil, which has its own distinctive features, is said to inhabit Luzon, which is the country’s biggest island. According to the report, the human genus, named by the scientists as Homo luzonensis, lived at the country around 50,000 years ago, which is roughly the same time as the Homo floresiensis, which are controversial half-sized hominids that lived in Flores, an Indonesian island in the south.

When it comes to shape and size, a few pieces of the fossils recovered match that of other Homo species, although according to paleoanthropologist of the French National Museum of Natural History in Paris and study co-author Florent Détroit, that’s about where the rest of the similarities end since taking Homo luzonensis’ features as a whole reveals that it is, in fact, different from all other found Homo species.

In fact, a closer look at the newly discovered species reveals that it’s a mix of both modern and primitive features. For example, H. luzonesis sports molars that even for the standard for hobbits were especially small. Some of the teeth’s features are actually similar to that of modern human molars.

Furthermore, the H. luzonesis also had premolars that had two to three roots, as opposed to one. This is a remarkable find, since as hominids that are much older (dating back several hundred thousand years ago) usually had premolars that had more than one root. What’s even stranger, however, is that H. luzonesis had curved finger and toe bones, suggesting that it had a tree-climbing ability, a trait common in hominids from about two million years ago.

While this may suggest a new species, scientists from outside of the study said that declaring it as a brand new homo species is “too soon.” Détroit’s group themselves weren’t able to extract any DNA from the fossils as well, and so it’s been declared that “all [evolutionary] possibilities are still open.”

According to Martinón-Torres, director of the National Research Centre on Human Evolution in Burgos, Spain, these questions make the discovery of new fossils “exciting and puzzling.”

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