A group of scientists at the Hebei GEO University said that a skull found in China in 1933 possibly belongs to a new, ancient human species.
The scientists, whose findings were published in the journal The Innovation last Friday, gave the potential new species to which the skull belonged the moniker, Dragon Man. Their analyses found that the owner of the skull is between 138,000 and 309,000 years old.
Led by Professor Qiang Ji, the team of scientists used phylogenetic analysis and mathematical modeling to identify the correct lineage for the skull.
In a press release, Chris Stringer, a human evolution expert at the Natural History Museum in London who studied the skull alongside Ji and his team, said that “the skull has a large brain capacity, fully within the range of modern humans and Neanderthals.”
Stringer added that the skull also “shows features resembling our species; including flat and low cheekbones with a shallow canine fossa, and the face looks reduced and tucked under the braincase.”
An ancient human skull in Hebei GEO University known as the #Harbin cranium may represent our new closest hominin relative, even closer than #Neanderthals. Researchers have named this new species Homo longi or "Dragon Man." @The_InnovationJ https://t.co/V4Y97ndCfc pic.twitter.com/KgEUUtvJQ8
— Cell Press (@CellPressNews) June 25, 2021
As seen in the visualization above, the Dragon Man’s skull looks a bit different from a Homo Sapien’s skull. One of the most notable features of the Dragon Man’s skull is its supraorbital notches, which form the upper parts of the eye sockets. The Dragon Man’s supraorbital notches are noticeably thicker and more prominent compared to those belonging to humans.
“It’s widely believed that the Neanderthals form the sister group of the Homo sapiens lineage,” Stringer added in the press release. “But our analyses suggest that this skull, and some other Middle Pleistocene human fossils from China, form a third East Asian lineage, which is actually closer to sapiens than the Neanderthals are.”
However, some scientists who were not part of the research, don’t think the Dragon Man’s skull belongs to a new ancient human species. For instance, paleoanthropologist Marta Mirazón Lahr of the University of Cambridge told Science Magazine that there’s a possibility that the Dragon Man’s skull is simply the most-intact Denisovan skull ever discovered, but that it doesn’t necessarily belong to a sister lineage.
? Breaking news: A huge skull found in the Songhua River in China represents a new sister lineage for Homo sapiens. It dates to at least 146,000 years old and has been dubbed 'Dragon Man'.
This is a remarkable piece in the jigsaw of human evolution. https://t.co/o3SMeyE8Pm
— Natural History Museum (@NHM_London) June 25, 2021