'Dragon Man' Skull Fossil May Be New Human Species

By Joshua Cawthorpe, June 29, 2021

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A new species of hominin (the group to which humans belong) has been proposed by a team of researchers examining a fossil at Hebei GEO University.

In a scientific paper published on June 25, researchers assert that the fossil dates back more than 138,000 years, according to China Daily. Researchers coined the term Homo longi and nicknamed it ‘Dragon Man’ because it was found in Heilongjiang province, translating to ‘Black Dragon River.’ 

The skull fossil – not the one that resurrects Cranidos. Image via @科技日报/Weibo

Scientists point out a number of significant differences in skull composition compared to our bigger-brained and more muscular sister species, the Neanderthals.

Dragon-Man-illustration-3.jpegAn artistic illustration by Zhao Chuang of ‘Dragon Man’ looking absolutely shredded and beach-ready. Image via @科技日报/Weibo

Given the timeframe, the brain is a major area of interest for this skull. The study describes the endocranial capacity of 1,420 milliliters as “massive” and comparable to modern humans. For reference, the cranial capacity of the Peking Man is just 1,043 milliliters, who lived as long as 400,000 years ago, according to the American Natural History Museum.

This Day in History: The Discovery of Peking Man

The skull was allegedly discovered in 1933 when the Dongjiang bridge was being built to span the Songhua river in the city of Harbin. The worker who found the skull hid it down a well to protect his prize from the Japanese invaders. 

According to National Geographic, the aged worker told his grandchildren where the skull was hidden and they retrieved it in 2018. Paleontologist Ji Qiang convinced the family to donate the skull to Hebei GEO University and subsequently led the research team.

Researchers employed advanced techniques including direct uranium series dating and strontium isotropic ratios to estimate the age of the skull.

Ji suggested that the fossil increases the likelihood that Homo sapiens, we, may have originated in Asia, as per China Daily.

All the earliest known fossils of the genus Homo are African, leading to a consensus that the Homo lineage split away from Australopithecus 2.5 to 3 million years ago. 

Fossils of Homo habilis (Latin for handyman) were first found in Tanzania, however, stone tools found in Ethiopia are believed to predate the Homo genus.

[Cover image via @科技日报/Weibo]

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