About 146,000 decades back, a hunter died in the forests of what is now northern China. His skull remained pretty much beautifully preserved in sediment till bridge builders in Harbin discovered it in 1933.

At that time, Harbin was occupied by Japan, so a Chinese worker hid the cranium in an deserted properly, the place it remained for 85 many years. The worker informed his grandson about the concealed bone, now recognised as the Harbin cranium, and 3 decades in the past it finally manufactured its way to anthropologists at the Hebei GEO College.

A trio of papers released Friday expose that the cranium belonged to a formerly unidentified species of human ancestor, identified as Homo longi.

“For the reason that the Harbin fossil is so nicely preserved and insightful, it is just one of the most crucial finds so significantly for the final 500,000 many years of human evolution,” Chris Stringer, an anthropologist at the All-natural Record Museum in London who co-authored the studies, explained to Insider.

Stringer’s team nicknamed this new hominin species “Dragon Man,” following the province where it was identified: Heilongjiang, which interprets to “dragon river.”

In accordance to the new exploration, “Dragon Guy” could be the closest recognised relative of contemporary individuals — closer than Neanderthals, the group to which that title previously belonged.

‘Dragon Man’ may have interbred with ancient human beings

Homo longi dragon man

Skulls of distinctive human ancestors uncovered in China so significantly — the “Dragon Male” cranium is on the much ideal.

Kai Geng


In accordance to the new research, the Harbin cranium came from a 50-12 months-outdated male. The assessment also confirmed that Homo longi experienced a mind size comparable to that of present day people, however areas of its skull resemble all those of far more historic hominins.

As proven in the video below, Homo longi’s skull is massive and has a flatter form, with sq. eye sockets, thick eyebrow ridges, and oversized tooth. These are features far more common of Neanderthals, and they suggest that “Dragon Person” was fairly massive. From the skull’s sizing, researchers assume the species experienced adapted to survive in severe environments.

 

“Like Homo sapiens, they hunted mammals and birds, and gathered fruits and vegetables, and possibly even caught fish,” Xijun Ni, a paleoanthropologist at the Hebei GEO University who co-authored the reports, reported in a release.

For the duration of the time period 146,000 many years ago, identified as the Center Pleistocene, different human ancestors crossed again and forth amongst Africa, Asia, and Europe. Fashionable people were being already residing in western Asia, together with the Arabian Peninsula, so in their japanese migration, they could have crossed paths with the “Dragon Person.” 

“We really don’t know if this inhabitants survived long enough to fulfill Homo sapiens, but they may perhaps nicely have carried out. If Neanderthals could interbreed with contemporary people, then I am certain that the Harbin team could way too,” Stringer said.

Humanity’s closest relative?

Neanderthal

An staff of the Organic Heritage Museum in London seems at model of a Neanderthal male in September 2014.

Will Oliver/PA Pictures/Getty


To establish whether Homo longi was a lot more like Homo sapiens or Neanderthals, the scientists measured far more than 600 components of the Harbin skull, then when compared the details to 95 other hominin skulls. A laptop investigation revealed that “Dragon Person” was possible nearer on the evolutionary tree to contemporary people than to Neanderthals — that means the species shared a far more the latest common ancestor with us.

“We identified our extended-shed sister lineage,” Ni claimed.

Stringer thinks that Homo longi — along with other hominin fossils beforehand identified in China that had not been assigned a species — is part of a distinctive population of human ancestors that thrived in East Asia through the Middle Pleistocene.

Homo longi dragon man

An illustration of Homo longi, or “Dragon Person,” a new human ancestor discovered in China.

Chuang Zhao


Having said that, Ian Tattersall, an anthropologist with the American Museum of All-natural Record who was not included in the study, informed Insider that he’s uncertain Homo longi is seriously a sister lineage to modern individuals. Which is due to the fact skulls from Homo sapiens have unique foreheads, and the bones that make up the experience are retracted from the forehead, Tattersall claimed. He thinks “Dragon Man” is lacking that characteristic.

“I would reserve judgement on the claim of a specially shut marriage with Homo sapiens,” he said.

Tattersall explained he won’t have a dilemma with assigning the skull to a new species, nevertheless. 

‘Dragon Man’ could be a Denisovan

denisovan

A portrait of a juvenile woman Denisovan.


Maayan Harel



It can be possible, Stringer explained, that Homo longi is truly a member of the Denisovan population — a human ancestor that lived in Asia from 500,000 to 30,000 yrs in the past. If that have been the case, he added, “then we know that they did interbreed with equally Neanderthals and our species, and some of the Harbin group’s DNA could nonetheless be in some Homo sapiens populations nowadays.”

Homo longi dragon man

An illustration of Homo longi, or “Dragon Person.”

Chuang Zhao


To examine that probability, researchers could collect ancient DNA from the skull for further tests.

“But as the extraction process is relatively harmful, it needs to be deemed really cautiously for this precious fossil,” Stringer mentioned.