Long-lost relative of modern man found in the Philippines

World | ASSOCIATED PRESS 12 Apr 2019

Fossil bones and teeth in the northern Philippines have revealed a long-lost cousin of modern man who lived around the time our own species was spreading from Africa to occupy the rest of the world.

It's yet another reminder that, although Homo sapiens is the only surviving member of our branch of the evolutionary tree, we've had company for most of our existence.

In a study released by the journal Nature, scientists describe a cache of seven teeth and six bones from the feet, hands and thigh of at least three individuals. They were recovered from Callao Cave on the island of Luzon in the northern Philippines in 2007, 2011 and 2015. Tests on two samples show minimum ages of 50,000 years and 67,000 years.

The main exodus of our own species from Africa took place around 60,000 years ago.

Analysis of the bones from Luzon led the study team to conclude they belonged to a previously unknown member of our branch of the family tree.One of the toe bones and the overall pattern of tooth shapes and sizes differ from what's been seen before in the Homo sapiens family, the researchers said. They dubbed the creature Homo luzonensis.

It apparently used stone tools and its small teeth suggest it might have been rather small-bodied.

It is believed H luzonensis lived in eastern Asia around the same time as not only our species but other members of the Homo branch, including Neanderthals, their little-understood Siberian cousins the Denisovans, and the diminutive "hobbits" of the island of Flores in Indonesia.

Our species is seen to have reached the Philippines thousands of years after the age of the bones.

But some human relative was on Luzon more than 700,000 years ago, as indicated by the presence of stone tools and a butchered rhino dating to that time.

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