Scientists announced on June 25 that a skull discovered in northeast China represents a newly discovered human species. The scientist named it Homo longi, or “Dragon Man.” The findings were published in three papers in the journal The Innovation.
The specimen represents a human group that lived in East Asia at least 146,000 years ago. It was found at Harbin, north-east China, in 1933, but only came to the attention of scientists recently.
Dragon Man had large, almost square eye sockets, thick brow ridges, a wide mouth, and oversized teeth. Prof Qiang Ji, from Hebei GEO University, says it is one of the most complete early human skull fossils ever discovered.
“It has a mosaic combination of primitive and (more modern features), setting itself apart from all the other species of human,” the researcher explained.
Dragon man’s well-preserved skull is the largest Homo skull on record. An analysis of the cranium revealed that Dragon man might be the closest-known related species to Homo sapiens, even closer than Neanderthals, who were long thought to be our closest relation, the study found.
“On our analyses, the Harbin group is more closely linked to H. sapiens than the Neanderthals are — that is, Harbin shared a more recent common ancestor with us than the Neanderthals did,” co-author Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum, London told the media.
“If these are regarded as distinct species, then this is our sister (most closely related) species.”
The researchers say the discovery has the potential to rewrite the story of human evolution.