Luzon Man

When remains of several Homo floresiensis ('Flores man') were discovered in 2003 on the Indonesian island of Flores, scientists were baffled. Scientists are still divided whether Homo floresiensis represents a distinct species from modern humans or whether they were the result of insular dwarfism.
Professor Piper showing a child's femur (collar bone).
But now the story of human evolution is getting even more diffuse, because researchers have uncovered the remains of a new species of human in the Philippines, proving the region played a key role in hominin evolutionary history[1]. The new species, Homo luzonensis ('Luzon man') is named after Luzon Island, where the 67,000 year old fossils were found during excavations at Callao Cave, located on northern Luzon. 

The researchers uncovered the remains of at least two adults and one juvenile within the same archaeological deposits. The fossil remains included adult finger and toe bones, as well as teeth. They also recovered a child’s femur. There are some really interesting features – for example, the teeth are really small. The size of the teeth generally, though not always, reflect the overall body-size of a mammal, so the researchers think Homo luzonensis was probably relatively small. Exactly how small they don’t know yet, because they have yet to find some skeletal elements from which we could measure body-size more precisely.

"So, the question is whether some of these features evolved as adaptations to island life, or whether they are anatomical traits passed down to Homo luzonensis from their ancestors over the preceding two million years, Professor Philip Piper, co-author and a lead member of the team, explained.

The Philippines is made up of a group of large islands that have been separated long enough to have potentially facilitated archipelago speciation. Homo luzonensis shares some unique skeletal features with the famous Homo floresiensis, discovered on the island of Flores to the south east of the Philippine archipelago.

So, did Homo luzonensis evolve seprately from Homo floresiensis or did both simply evolve as a result of isolated island life?

[1] D├ętroit et al: A new species of Homo from the Late Pleistocene of the Philippines in Nature - 2019

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