Harbin skull, the fossil found in China that could be a new species of human ancestors

The skull from Harbin, one of the fossils humans best preserved in the world that has just been studied, is of the species Homo longi u “Man Dragon“, A new human lineage that, according to the Chinese scientists who have documented it, may be our closest relative. Another twist in complex human evolution.

The fossil is the largest known human skull and has 146,000 years, which places the Pleistocene Half, one of the most dynamic times in the migration of human species.

Although it was discovered in the 1930s in the city of Harbin, in China’s Heilongjiang province, the skull remained hidden (kept by the family of the man who found it) until 2018, when it was donated to the Academy of Sciences of China.

Now it has just been studied by a Chinese multidisciplinary team and its findings, which appear in three articles, are published today in the journal The Innovation, from the Cell group.

Scientists have cataloged the fossil into a new human species which they have named Homo longi or “Man Dragon”And that could revolutionize the current vision of human evolution.

“The skull combines primitive and derived features that distinguish it from all other Homo species,” says the professor of paleontology at Hebei GEO University. Quiang Ji, who, therefore, has decided to consider it a new species and baptize it Homo longi.

According to its authors, the enormous skull could house a brain of comparable size to that of modern humans, although it had larger and almost square eye sockets, thick brow ridges, a wide mouth and large teeth.

Scientists believe that it is the skull of a male of about 50 years old, who lived in a forested and floodplain environment as part of a small community and who, like the sapiens, hunted, gathered fruits and vegetables, and “maybe even fished,” he explains. Xijun Neither, professor of primatology and paleoanthropology from the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Because of its large size and the location where the skull was found, the researchers suggest that Homo longi could have adapted to difficult environments, dispersed throughout Asia, and even encountered Homo sapiens during the Middle Pleistocene.

The authors come to a second conclusion and suggest that Homo longi is one of our closest hominid relatives, even more so than the neanderthals.

“Our discovery suggests that the new lineage that we have identified and that includes Homo longi is the true sister group of sapiens,” defends Ni.

In addition, the reconstruction of the tree of human life that these authors make also suggests that the common ancestor that we share with the neanderthals it existed even further back in time.

“The time of divergence between H. sapiens and the neanderthals it may be even deeper in evolutionary history than is generally believed, more than a million years. If true, it is likely that we diverged from Neanderthals about 400,000 years earlier than scientists thought, ”Ni warns.

For the authors, Homo longi they were strong and robust humans and their possible interactions with Homo sapiens could have shaped our history.

“Altogether, the skull of Harbin provides us with further evidence to understand the diversity of Homo and the evolutionary relationships between these various species and populations of Homo. We have found our long-lost brother lineage ”, he concludes. Neither.

The paleoanthropologist of advice Higher from Research Scientific Antonio Rosas agrees that the analyzes of this human fossil can “strongly influence future research on human evolution”, since they contain “a revolutionary point, with implications in several key aspects of the evolution of the genus Homo”, he details. to ..

And although the Spanish researcher is concerned that the authors have given a lot of weight to certain facial characteristics that are considered derived in paleontology, he recognizes that the morphological features of the face may, in fact, be “primitive characteristics inherited from a common ancestor.”

“Without a doubt, the debate is served”, concludes the CSIC paleoanthropologist.

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