Science Book, June 25 (EFE). The Harbin skull, one of the world’s best preserved human fossils that has just been studied, belongs to Homo genus Lungi or “Dragon Man,” a new human lineage that, according to Chinese scientists who documented, may be our closest relative. Another twist in complex human evolution.
The fossil is the largest known human skull and is 146,000 years old., which places the Middle Ice Age, one of the most dynamic times in the migration of human species.
Although it was discovered in the 1930s in Harbin in China’s Heilongjiang Province, the skull remained hidden (preserved by the family of the man who found it) until 2018, when it was donated to the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Now it has just been studied by a Chinese multidisciplinary team and its findings, which appear in three articles, published today in the journal The Innovation, affiliated with the Cell group.
Scientists have categorized the fossil into a new human species they called Homo longi or “Dragon Man” and it could revolutionize the current view of human evolution.
“The skull combines primitive and derivative features that distinguish it from all other hominid species,” says Professor of Paleontology at Hebei GEO University. Quiang Ji, who thus decided to consider it a new species and christened it Homo Longi.
According to its authors, the massive skull could house a brain similar in size to that of modern humans, although it had larger, roughly square cavities, thick forehead edges, a broad mouth and large teeth.
Scientists believe it was the skull of a man in his fifties, who lived in a wooded and floodplain environment as part of a small community and, like Sapiens, hunted and gathered fruits and vegetables, and “maybe fish.” Xijun Ni, professor of protozoology and palaeoanthropology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Due to its large size and the location where the skull was found, researchers suggest that Homo longi was able to adapt to challenging environments, spread across Asia, and even encountered Homo sapiens during the middle Pleistocene.
The authors came to a second conclusion and suggested that Homo longi was one of humans’ closest relatives, even more so than Neanderthals.
“Our discovery indicates that the new lineage that we have identified that includes Homo longi is the true sister group of sapiens,” defends Ni.
Furthermore, the reconstruction of the human tree of life by these authors also suggests that the common ancestor we share with Neanderthals existed in the past.
Ni warns that “the time of divergence between Homo sapiens and Neanderthals may be deeper in evolutionary history than is generally believed, over a million years. If this is true, we likely diverged from Neanderthals about 400,000 years earlier than scientists thought.”
For the authors, Homo longi were strong and powerful humans and their potential interactions with Homo sapiens could have shaped our history.
Ni concludes, “The Harbin skull offers us further evidence for understanding human diversity and the evolutionary relationships between these different human species and groups. We have found our long-lost sister lineage.”
SCR palaeontologist Antonio Rosas agrees that analyzes of this hominid fossil could “strongly influence future research on human evolution”, as it contains a “revolutionary point, with implications for many key aspects of the evolution of the genus Homo”, EFE details.
Although the Spanish researcher is concerned that the authors have given too much weight to some facial features considered to be derived from paleontology, he acknowledges that facial morphological features may, in fact, be “primitive features inherited from a common ancestor.”
“Without a doubt, the debate is taking place,” concludes the CSIC paleontologist.
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