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An ancient human fossil discovered from the seafloor near Taiwan reveals that a primitive group of humans, potentially an unknown species, once lived in Asia, researchers say.
These findings suggest that multiple lineages of extinct humans may have coexisted in Asia before the arrival of modern humans in the region about 40,000 years ago, the scientists added.
lived between 10,000 and 190,000 years ago. The jaw and its teeth look unexpectedly primitive for this age, the researchers said. During the Pleistocene Epoch, which lasted from about 2.6 million years ago to 11,700 years ago, humans generally evolved smaller jaws and teeth, but the new fossil from Taiwan appears larger and more robust than older Homo erectus fossils from Java and northern China.
The researchers said Penghu 1 does resemble a 400,000-year-old fossil from Hexian, in southern China, located about 590 miles (950 km) north of the Penghu Channel. The scientists suggest these fossils together represent a distinct group of archaic humans, although they caution that they do not yet have enough evidence to say whether it is a new species or not.
"We need other skeletal parts to evaluate the degree of its uniqueness,"study co-author Yousuke Kaifu, a paleoanthropologist at Japan's National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo, told Live Science. "The question of species can be effectively discussed after those steps."
The new findings suggest there were several different groups of archaic humans living in Asia at the same time, some more primitive than others. "Then modern humans dispersed into this region around 50,000 to 40,000 years ago and came across a diverse group of hominins," Kaifu said. "This is a very different, complex and exciting story compared to what I was taught in school."
The scientists detailed their findings online today (Jan. 27) in the journal Nature Communications.