The first ancient human fossil to be found in Taiwan is reported in Nature Communications this week. The fossil helps fill a geographical gap in the Asian fossil record and highlights the diversity of ancient humans living in this region during the Pleistocene era.
Eastern Asia was home to a diverse range of ancient hominins during the Pleistocene, including the successful, long-lived Homo erectus found in Java and China, the diminutive Indonesian island dweller Homo floresiensis, and the Neanderthals and Denisovans of the Russian Altai mountains.
Chun-Hsiang Chang, Yousuke Kaifu and colleagues report that the fossil, dredged from the Penghu submarine channel off the western shore of Taiwan, is a robust mandible with primitive-looking teeth. It is similar in structure to that of another Middle Pleistocene Homo found in Hexian, Eastern China. The authors have dubbed the newly discovered Taiwanese hominin, Penghu 1. They believe that Penghu 1 lived unexpectedly recently, between 190,000 and 10,000 years ago. Together, the finds suggest that multiple evolutionary lineages of archaic hominins existed in eastern Asia during the Pleistocene, before the arrival of modern humans in the region around 40,000 years ago.