Tue. Apr 23rd, 2019

Homo luzonensis: A new human in the family | Science

Homo luzonensis: A new human in the family | Science



According to him CIA WorldFact Book (Central Intelligence Agency of the United States), around 370,000 people a day are born in the world. Despite the high number and the very diverse circumstances in which this occurs, it is difficult to imagine that any of them has been received with indifference. The arrival of a new member to a family is always a catalyst of emotions and so, between embarrassed and moved, we receive the birth of a new human species, Homo luzonensis, named after the fossil remains, mainly teeth and phalanges, found in the remote cave of Callao, on the Philippine island of Luzon.

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This population would have lived on the island only 67,000 years ago, "the day before yesterday" in geological terms, and despite this it presents a significant number of primitive features, particularly in the hands and feet, which are typical of hominins still traveling around the trees between 2 and 3 million years ago. Your teeth look more advanced; in some features they might even resemble ours, but sprinkled among these more modern features, they show some characteristics that were styled hundreds of thousands of years ago. Surprising the size of these teeth, very small, as small or more than those of Homo floresiensis, the tiny species that inhabited the island of Flores (Java), at about the same time, and which the world nicknamed as "the Hobbit".

The islands are like time capsules where you can find relics, ancestral forms that survive isolated from the rest of the world and on which nature, as in a laboratory frankensteinian, work experiments that alter its original appearance. In addition to the effect that high levels of inbreeding may have on these isolated populations, we have to take into account the processes of island dwarfism, an adaptation mechanism by which many animals, due to the limited resources of the islands, reduce their size. It is expected that the confluence of both processes would have had an important effect on the development of these populations. So, it is possible that in Homo luzonensis we are observing, as in a fair mirror, the portrait deformed from one of our most remote ancestors.

With the discovery of Homo floresiensis, the Denisovans and, now, Homo luzonensis, we are perplexed at the solitude of our species in the face of the emergence of human species that existed just before we became global

We often speak with fascination and some sorrow of that opportunity that we lost, almost, of knowing our brothers the neandertales, to those of us who know that we resembled each other so much. It produces fascination now, and I do not know if it's scary to think that, for a short time, we might have also met another relative in whom we may feel less like being portrayed, halfway between what we recognize as human and what we find simian.

With the discovery of Homo floresiensis, the Denisovans and, now, Homo luzonensis, we are perplexed at the solitude of our species in the face of the emergence of human species that existed just before we became global. Today we are many, but more of the same, in front of a time when humans were less, but more diverse. Now it is inconceivable that there may be a population completely isolated from the rest of the world, but neither do you need to live on an island to feel disconnected. "Now we are more, but not better," wrote Miguel Delibes in A world that is dying. "We are closer together (...), but not closer"

María Martinón-Torres is director of the National Research Center on Human Evolution (CENIEH).

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