, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 1-12

Longgupo: EarlyHomo colonizer or late plioceneLufengpithecus survivor in south China?

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Abstract

A fragment of mandible and a maxillary incisor of different individuals from the Longgupo Cave, China have been cited as evidence of an early dispersal ofHomo from Africa to Asia. More specifically, these specimens are said to resemble “Homo ergaster” orHomo habilis, rather than the species usually thought to be the first Asian colonizer,Homo erectus. If this supposition is correct, it calls into question which hominid (sensu stricto) first left Africa, and why hominids became a colonizing species. Furthermore, the Longgupo remains have been used to buttress the argument thatHomo erectus evolved uniquely in Asia and was not involved in the origins of modern humans. We question this whole line of argument because the mandibular fragment cannot be distinguished from penecontemporary fossil apes, especially the Late Miocene-Pliocene Chinese genusLufengpithecus, while the incisor is indistinguishable from those of recent and living east Asian people and may be intrusive in the deposit. We believe that the Longgupo mandible represents the relic survival of a Late Miocene ape lineage into a period just prior to the dispersal of hominids into southeastern Asia, with some female dental features that parallel the hominid condition. If the Longgupo mandibular fragment represents a member of theLufengpithecus clade, it demonstrates that hominoids other thanGigantopithecus and the direct ancestor of the orangutan persisted in east Asia into the Late Pliocene, while all other Eurasian large-bodied hominoids disappeared in the Late Miocene.