Scientists have found a fossilized skull in the Dragon River region of northeast China that belongs to a new species of ancient humans, redefining the Homo sapiens’ family tree and how our species has evolved through time.
“It is widely believed that the Neanderthal belongs to an extinct lineage that is the closest relative of our own species,” says Xijun Ni, a co-author of the studies and a paleoanthropologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Hebei GEO University. “However, our discovery suggests that the new lineage we identified that includes Homo longi is the actual sister group of H. sapiens.”
The massive skull of Homo longi – dubbed “Dragon Man” because of where it was found – is between 146,000 and 309,000 years old, and its brain was 7% larger than the average brain of a living human. According to findings, Homo longi is closer to our species than the Neanderthals, which to date was believed to be our closest ancestor. The Dragon Man skull could “help clarify some of the confusion,” says Katerina Harvati, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Tübingen, in Germany, about the evolution of our species.