| 8 February 2015
Fossilized bone may belong to new human species
The first known prehistoric human from Taiwan has been identified, and may represent an entirely new species that lived as recently as 10,000 years ago.
The newly identified human, 'Penghu 1', is represented by a jawbone with big teeth still in it, and strengthens the growing body of evidence that Homo sapiens was not the only species from our genus living in Europe and Asia between 200,000 and 10,000 years ago.
Study co-author Dr Yousuke Kaifu, an associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at The University of Tokyo, says: "The available evidence at least does not exclude the possibility that they survived until the appearance of Homo sapiens in the region, and it is tempting to speculate about their possible contact."
A geologist with the National Museum of Natural History in Taiwan, lead author Chun-Hsiang Chang recognised the importance of the jawbone, which he and his team theorise could represent a new human species, or a regional group of Homo erectus living on what was then mainland Asia. Dr Kaifu says that the presence of large-bodied mammals such as elephants, horses, and bear, suggests the area was then a relatively open, wet woodland.
Chris Stringer, also of the Natural History Museum, says that in some ways the fossil is more primitive looking than the well-known 'Peking Man', yet also has certain features in common with the archaic human Homo heidelbergensis, as well as Homo erectus and even Denisovans.
"This enigmatic fossil is difficult to classify," says Stringer, "but it highlights the growing and not unexpected evidence of human diversity in the Far East, with the apparent coexistence of different lineages in the region prior to, and perhaps even contemporary with, the arrival of modern humans some 55,000 years ago."
ABC Science (28 January 2015)
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