A new species of ancient man dubbed Homo longi, or “Dragon Man,” could potentially change the way we understand human evolution, scientists said Friday.
The researchers said in their findings, published Friday in three separate articles in the journal The Innovation, that Homo longi could replace Neanderthals as the closest relative of our own species, Homo sapiens. The discovery of the new species is linked to a skull known as the Harbin Skull, a fossil believed to have been discovered decades ago but only recently studied.
“It is widely believed that Neanderthals belong to an extinct lineage which is the closest relative of our own species,” Xijun Ni, professor of primatology and paleoanthropology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Hebei University GEO, and author of two of the papers, told The Associated Press.
“However, our discovery suggests that the new lineage we have identified which includes Homo longi is the actual sibling group of Homo sapiens.”
Harbin’s skull “also shows other features resembling our species,” said Chris Stringer, another of the authors, in a press release about the findings from the Natural History Museum in London, where he works as director of research.
“He has flat, low cheekbones with a shallow canine fossa, and the face appears reduced and hidden under the brain,” he added.
The name “Dragon Man” is derived from the geographic name Long Jiang, which is commonly used for Heilongjiang Province and literally means “River of the Dragon”, according to the study conducted by an international team and led by Qiang Ji, a professor in Hebei. . Geo University in China.
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He added that the skull, which measures approximately 9 inches long and over 6 inches wide, is large enough to contain a brain similar in size to that of a modern human – approximately 3 pounds (1,420 ml) in volume. cerebral. Researchers believe it belonged to a man, around 50 years old.
The skull was allegedly discovered in 1933 during the construction of a bridge over the Songhua River in the city of Harbin, China’s Heilongjiang Province, according to the study, adding that information on the exact site had been lost due to of its “long and confused history”. “
Junyi Ge, from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and one of the study team members, said they were “quite confident” that he was over 146,000 years old.
Although it was described by the research team as a new species, in a separate interview with the UK Press Association, Stringer said he agreed that the skull looked like a another fossil belonging to Homo daliensis, another type of ancient human.
“Regardless of that, the morphology of the fossil is very instructive on subsequent human evolution,” he added.
The results were announced hours after scientists said they discovered a new type of primitive human after studying pieces of fossilized bone unearthed at a site used by a cement plant in central Israel.
Nesher Ramla Homo – named after the place southeast of Tel Aviv where he was found – may have lived alongside our species, Homo sapiens, for over 100,000 years, and may even have been cross, according to the researchers.