Lab Notes

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One tiny bone, one big discovery. “Homo luzonensis” discovered in the Philippines

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Sara Whitestone

Neuroscience

Université de Bordeaux

Recently, a team of international researchers have discovered a new human species, Homo luzonensis, in the Philippines. Their first discovery was in 2007, when they came across an unusual small foot bone - a metatarsal - dating back to 67,000 years ago. This bone was found in Cagayan Valley on the island of Luzon, on the protected lands of the indigenous Aeta people. This fossil was the earliest direct proof of humans living in the Philippines, but analysis could not determine which species of “Homo” it belonged to. After further excavation, the researchers found more strange remains from what they determined to be 3 individuals - at least two adults and one child. 

However, not everyone is convinced by this discovery. They argue that there is not enough evidence that this is a new species of human, especially because the fossils were all broken or heavily worn down. They claim more tests need to be done before naming a new species. 

The interdisciplinary team has already used all the non-destructive tests available including 3D analysis and x-ray imaging to distinguish the different morphological characteristics, but further analysis is still needed to learn more about this species’ behavior or biology.
This discovery reaffirms how important the islands of Southeast Asia are for understanding the evolution of our species. Within the last few decades, the number of different known species from human fossils has almost tripled. As researchers work to unearth the diverse roots of our family tree, what will they find next?