Tocantins Man of South America may not be Homo erectus as he was originally identified by Tiktok users

BrazilHomo erectus man as originally believed, or from another relic species?

In 2019, local TikTok users in northeastern Brazil released a video of a relative who has distinct morphological features. The description that was on Facebook, which has since been taken down, listed the location as the Brazilian province of Tocantins. He was dubbed “Homo erectus man.”

The TikTok video got over 1.6 million views when it first came out in 2019. Some relatives in the small village in the Tocantins province took a short video of him dancing to modern music. They called him “Homo erectus man.”  The nickname took off.  Now a Google Search will bring up “Living Homo erectus man.”  But newly released DNA data shows, he may not be Homo erectus at all, but rather a modern archaic human with a high percentage of Denisovan DNA.

Merely a case of microcephaly?

Another theory, he was just a case of Microcephaly.  From the Mayo Clinic:


Microcephaly (my-kroh-SEF-uh-lee) is a rare neurological condition in which an infant’s head is much smaller than the heads of other children of the same age and sex. Sometimes detected at birth, microcephaly often occurs when there is a problem with brain development in the womb or when the brain stops growing after birth.

Microcephaly can be caused by a variety of genetic and environmental factors…

It now appears the man with the archaic morphology from Brazil, may have Denisovan DNA

DenisovanNow new genetic evidence strongly suggests he’s got Denisovan DNA admixture. The archaic Denisovan DNA likely came from the island of Java 50,000 to 100,000 years ago. Denisovans and Homo erectus occupied the island at the same time.

Polynesian seafarers who crossed the South Pacific very likely carried that Denisovan/Homo erectus admixture with them. And now it’s showing up in the modern Brazilian population.

South America tribes today have a shocking amount of Denisovan DNA. How did it get to South America? A new study says Polynesians made it all the way to South America and sexually introgressed with the indigenous tribes. Another study suggests introgression happened on Easter Island. Mummy DNA from the region confirms the Denisovan DNA.

André Luiz Campelo dos Santos has a PhD in Archaeology.  He is a researcher at Florida Atlantic University FAU in the Department of Computer and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.
On December 8, Professor Hawks Tweeted out to his 26,000 Followers:

New paper in AmJBioAnth by André Luiz Campelo dos Santos @gokcumen et al surveys ancient DNA from across the Americas.  Intriguing suggestion of ancestral component related to Oceanian populations.

From the Abstract:

Homo erectusAn increasing body of archaeological and genomic evidence has hinted at a complex settlement process of the Americas by humans. This is especially true for South America, where unexpected ancestral signals have raised perplexing scenarios for the early migrations into different regions of the continent.

Here, we present ancient human genomes from the archaeologically rich Northeast Brazil and compare them to ancient and present-day genomic data. We find a distinct relationship between ancient genomes from Northeast Brazil, Lagoa Santa, Uruguay and Panama, representing evidence for ancient migration routes along South America’s Atlantic coast.

To further add to the existing complexity, we also detect greater Denisovan than Neanderthal ancestry in ancient Uruguay and Panama individuals. Moreover, we find a strong Australasian signal in an ancient genome from Panama…

Early Polynesians may have carried high Denisovan DNA percentages to South America

A co-author of the paper, Professor Michael DeGiorgio of Florida Atlantic University offers further explanation of the findings.  From Eureka Alert, Nov. 2022:

Ayta Magbukon“Our study provides key genomic evidence for ancient migration events at the regional scale along South America’s Atlantic coast,” said Michael DeGiorgio, Ph.D., co-corresponding author who specializes in human, evolutionary, and computational genomics and is an associate professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science within FAU’s College of Engineering and Computer Science.

“These regional events likely derived from migratory waves involving the initial Indigenous peoples of South America near the Pacific coast.”

It is quite possible that the genetic lineage that made it to the South American continent stems from one of the two more enigmatic southern Denisovan branches, rather than the better-known Altai.  One of those Denisovan subspecies is vaguely identified as “southern.”  The other is so mysterious, it is just given an assignment of Denisovan 3.
Some scientists theorize this might have something to do with the famous (Alfred) Wallace Line which separates species from Indonesia and Papua New Guinea from species further west in  Australia.

There is also some intriguing genetic evidence from the Ayta Magbukon in Luzon Province of the Philippines.  Members of the tribe have been found to have up to 7,8% Denisovan DNA admixture.

Author Eric

FSU grad, US Navy Veteran. Houston, Texas

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