More new human species are discovered

Apr 11, 2019

THE HUMAN species is a lonely one. Today there are two species of gorilla, two of chimpanzees and a whopping three species of orang-utan, but just one sort of human. It wasn’t always so. People are familiar with the idea that Homo sapiens once shared Eurasia with another human, H. neanderthalensis. In 2004 researchers announced to great fanfare that they had found the bones of a third contemporaneous relative, a rather short human species who lived on the Indonesian island of Flores. This became H. floresiensis, and was quickly dubbed the “Hobbit”. Then, in 2010, geneticists declared that a single finger bone found in a cave in the Altai Mountains of western Siberia carried a distinct genome which suggested it belonged to a fourth group, the Denisovans.

Two new studies reveal that the landscape the ancestors of H. sapiens roamed across was even more crowded, until quite recently. One report draws on the power of genetic sequencing to show that the Denisovans comprised at least three different populations, which evolved separately for hundreds of thousands of years. The other study announces an entirely new species of hominin, H. luzonensis. Both findings centre on the islands that lay at the...

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