NEW YORK, April 11, (AP): Fossil bones and teeth found in the Philippines have revealed a long-lost cousin of modern people, which evidently 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 now the only surviving member of our branch of the evolutionary tree, we’ve had company for most of our existence. And it makes our understanding of human evolution in Asia “messier, more complicated and whole lot more interesting,” says one expert, Matthew Tocheri of Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
In a study released Wednesday 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 that all of today’s non-African people are descended from took place around 60,000 years ago. Analysis of the bones from Luzon led the study authors to conclude they belonged to a previously unknown member of our “Homo” 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 family, the researchers said.