Several foot and hand bones, a partial femur and teeth of ancient hominins that were found in Callao Cave in the Philippines are reported in a paper in this week’s Nature. These fossils provide sufficient evidence of a new species of hominin, who lived on the island of Luzon prior to 50,000 years ago, during the Late Pleistocene epoch.
Evidence of animal butchery going back 700,000 years and the discovery of a single foot bone - which was dated to 67,000 years ago - had previously indicated that hominins were present on Luzon. In the same stratigraphic layer of Callao Cave, Florent Detroit, Armand Mijares and colleagues found twelve additional hominin bones and teeth that originated from at least three individuals. These new specimens display features - such as distinct premolars - that are noticeably different from those of other species of in the Homo genus, including Homo floresiensis, another hominin from island Southeast Asia. The authors named the new species Homo luzonensis.
The presence of another previously unknown hominin species in this region underscores the importance of island Southeast Asia in the evolution of the genus Homo.