Meet the dragon man!
In Harbin, a city in northeast China, researchers have discovered the remains of a remarkable hominid. Not only does it appear to be a species unknown to us until recently, but the hominin also appears to be very close to us. To read in the magazine Innovation.
In a plus
The humanoid bears the name In a plus received, but is also called Dragonman in the hallways by researchers. To date, researchers have found only one skull of In a plus recovered, but it can already tell us a lot about hominin and its place in the long evolutionary history of man (s).
“The Harbin fossil is one of the most complete fossilized human skulls in the world,” said researcher Qiang Ji. “The fossil reveals many morphological details which are of great importance to our understanding of evolution within the genus Homo and the origin of the homo sapiens. “
Primitive and modern traits
The skull is quite large; he must have equipped a brain that can measure up to ours in size. At the same time, there are also differences between this skull – which is around 146,000 years old – and the skulls of modern humans. Thus H. long much larger and almost square orbits. In addition, the browbones – the bones above the eye sockets on which the eyebrows rest – are much wider. The mouth and teeth are also much stronger. “The skull certainly shows some archaic features,” said researcher Chris Stringer. “But some details – such as the shape of the cheekbones, the face that falls below the skull, the size and shape of the bones behind the ear are more reminiscent of our species.”
The skull gives us better insight into our own history and evolution, researchers say. “The discovery shows that a third lineage or human species evolved in East Asia 146,000 years ago,” Stringer said. “This had been suspected for some time, but the other fossils in this region were less complete or – in our opinion – not analyzed with the best methods.” Now that it has been proven that several lineages were present at the same time, the question naturally arises as to whether humanoids belonging to these different lineages also bumped into each other. We now know that Neanderthals met and even crossed paths with modern humans. But what about H. long? “As the homo sapiens was indeed present in East Asia so early, this H. long met, ”Stringer thinks. “And since we don’t know when H. long disappeared, meetings could be held later.
And if meetings have taken place, it is not excluded that the species have mixed. “If Neanderthals could interbreed with modern humans, I’m sure Harbin hominids could, too,” Stringer said. After all, research shows that In a plus near homo sapiens was linked. “Even closer than the Neanderthals.” This means that the last ancestor we met H. longi parties lived more recently than the last ancestor we have in common with the Neanderthals. “Neanderthals are generally thought to be part of an extinct line very similar to our species. But our discovery suggests that the new lineage that we have identified is true in In a plus is part of the current sister group of homo sapiens is, ”said researcher Xijun Ni.
This group may also include previously recovered fossil remains of hominids, such as the Jinniushan man and the Dali man, both also found in China. “And I’m sure we’ll find more in the future,” Stringer said. These future findings could reveal how H. long compares exactly to Jinniushan and Dalimens. In the future, there is no doubt that more research will be conducted on the relationship between H. long and the Siberian Denisovans. The molars of the Harbin fossil are very similar to those of the Denisovans. And it was previously suspected, based on common traits, that the Jinniushan and Dalimens were also related to the Denisovans, possibly even representing the East Asian populations of these hominids.
For example, the Harbin skull not only gives a better insight into our evolutionary history, but it also raises many (new) questions – as a representative of a new descendant line close to our own. “What was the evolutionary history of this group? Stringer marvels. “When and where did these hominids originate and when did they become extinct?” And why? ”There are also practical questions.“ Harbin’s harsh winters suggest that hominids adapted to extreme cold. But how? Did they do it physically or culturally or both? ”
Answers to these and other questions will be sought in Asia in the years to come. Because if research proves anything, it is that we must not ignore this part of the world in the search for our origin. “The research shows how important regions like China – and Asia in general – are in getting a full picture of recent human evolution.”