Fossils of extinct human species found

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The new hominid, named Homo luzonensis after the island of Luzon, in the Philippines, where its bones were found, stood less than 4ft tall and probably still spent time swinging from trees.

The researchers reported that at least three individuals were found in Callao Cave, displaying a combination of primitive and derived morphological features different from the combination of features found in other species, including Homo floresiensis and Homo sapiens.

So far archaeologists have found fossil hand and foot bones, a thigh bone and seven.

The discovery of two odd species of early human in the past two decades are making paleontologists wonder about the history of humanity.

Homo luzonensis has some physical similarities to recent humans, but in other features hark back to the australopithecines, upright-walking ape-like creatures that lived in Africa between two and four million years ago, as well as very early members of the genus Homo.

It apparently used stone tools and its small teeth suggest it might have been rather small-bodied, said one of the study authors, Florent Detroit of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris.

It also raises questions, including how the species arrived on the island and who its ancestors were.

The Indonesian island of Flores was home to a species called Homo floresiensis, nicknamed The Hobbits due to their small stature.

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Prof Chris Stringer, from London's Natural History Museum, commented: "After the remarkable finds of the diminutive Homo floresiensis were published in 2004, I said that the experiment in human evolution conducted on Flores could have been repeated on numerous other islands in the region".

It's becoming clear to experts that early humans came in a lot more shapes and sizes than they once thought.

It is also a mystery as to how the species reached Luzon island since it has never been connected to the mainland with a land bridge. Aside from Callao Cave, human fossils have recently been found in another site in Bulacan province just north of the capital, Manila, Mijares said without elaborating.

The discovery of Homo floresiensis and Homo luzonensis "really exposes how little we know about human evolution in Asia", Tocheri said.

One theory holds that the peculiar features of luzonensis and its island cousin floresiensis could be the result of their habitat, with the unique and isolated surroundings prompting them to evolve characteristics reminiscent of their ancient forebears.

Homo erectus has long thought to have been the first member of our direct line to leave the African homeland - around 1.9 million years ago.

This evidence comes from analysis of DNA, as no known Denisovan fossils have been found in the region. The most obvious candidate is Homo erectus, fossils of which were discovered in the 1890s on the Indonesian island of Java.

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