Meet 'dragon man,' the latest addition to the human family tree

Science 27 June, 2021 - 09:50am 45 views

What is a dragon man?

Researchers said Homo longi or "Dragon Man" could replace Neanderthals as our own species' closest relative. ... The discovery of the new species is connected to a skull known as the Harbin cranium, a fossil thought to have been discovered decades ago but only recently studied. NBC NewsDiscovery of 'Dragon Man' skull in China prompts rethink of human evolution

New discovery of 'Dragon Man' human head is forcing scientists to radically rethink evolution | TheHill

The Hill 27 June, 2021 - 11:02am

Just before his death, the man revealed the secret of the skull to his grandchildren who retrieved the prehistoric fossil in 2018 and donated it to the Geoscience Museum at Hebei GEO University. 

Researchers from Hebei GEO University conducted analysis of the cranium they claim is a newly discovered human species dubbed Homo longi or “Dragon Man” published in three papers in the journal The Innovation. 

Scientists examined the anatomical features of the fossil and determined that Dragon Man lived in northern China at least 146,000 years ago. The skull is large enough to hold a brain comparable in size to modern humans, but had larger square-like eye sockets, thick brow ridges, a wide mouth and oversized teeth. 

Researchers claim their analysis shows the skull represents a species more closely related to Homo sapiens than Neanderthals or Denisovans, an early human that lived around the same period. 

“It is widely believed that the Neanderthal belongs to an extinct lineage that is the closest relative of our own species. However, our discovery suggests that the new lineage we identified that includes Homo longi is the actual sister group of H. sapiens,” Xijun Ni, professor of primatology and paleoanthropology and author of the research, said. 

Lost Ancestors: Discovery of Unknown Species of Ancient Humans in Israel Promises to Unravel Long-Standing Mysteries | The Weather Channel - Articles from The Weather Channel |

The Weather Channel 27 June, 2021 - 11:02am

For hundreds of thousands of years, there were multiple archaic species of humans inhabiting the Earth simultaneously. The most popular ones and possibly the closest ancestors of ours are the Neanderthals and the recently discovered Denisovans. However, despite extensive exploration, there are still many missing dots in this evolutionary history of humans, especially the migration and evolution of traits.

Now, a team of Israeli scientists from Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have unearthed some startling evidence that sheds light on an entirely new type of Homo species unknown to science.

Archaeologists unearthed the bones of this mysterious ancient human from eight metres deep in a quarry site located in central Israel. The first glimpse of the fossilised skulls suggested that they belonged to a completely unknown species of our genus due to unusual characteristics.

To prove this, the researchers compared the structure of the bones with the other known Homo species, and it did not match with any known species completely. Instead, the mysterious bones displayed a distinct skull structure with fragmented parietal bones and lower jawbone. Moreover, the skull was found without a chin and showed large teeth, making it harder to demystify its identity.

After thorough investigation using techniques of the virtual reconstruction of the bones and the comparison of other fossilised relics of ancient humans, researchers concluded that it is indeed an unknown species. Using a dating technique, the team found that the remains belong to the last survivors of an ancient human group belonging to the Middle Pleistocene era around 140,000 to 120,000 years ago. Surprisingly, this was the time when early Homo sapiens were also present on the Earth.

The team initially named the newly-discovered human species as the Nesher Ramla Homo, following the discovery site of Nesher Ramla near the city of Ramla in Israel. This species is suspected to be an ancestor of both the Neanderthals of Europe and the archaic Homo that lived in Asia. The morphology of the bones displays similar features of teeth and jaws with that of Neanderthals, while their skull has a close resemblance to the archaic Homo.

The discovery of this new species could unravel certain long-standing mysteries around our ancestors, including the missing population and the migration of archaic humans. Moreover, as the evidence showcases resemblance to Neanderthals, there are high chances that some of the Neanderthals' ancestors originated from the Levant region. Till now, most researchers believed that Neanderthals evolved entirely in Europe.

Prof Israel Hershkovitz, who led the research, explains: “The Nesher Ramla fossils make us question this theory (European origin of Neanderthals), suggesting that the ancestors of European Neanderthals lived in the Levant as early as 400,000 years ago, repeatedly migrating westward to Europe and eastward to Asia. In fact, our findings imply that the famous Neanderthals of Western Europe are only the remnants of a much larger population that lived here in the Levant—and not the other way around."

Paradoxically, earlier evidence had shown that the genes of Homo sapiens had penetrated the Neanderthal population. Hence, the puzzle remained: how is this possible if the latter had presumably lived in Europe long before the arrival of Homo sapiens? Researchers hope that the discovery of this linking ancestral species could shed light on this long-standing problem.

Moreover, from the same site, the researchers also unearthed advanced stone tools that even Neanderthals could have used. This showcases the possible exchange of cultures and tool knowledge between the two ancestral human species. Researchers have concluded that the two different groups of humans lived alongside each other in the Middle East for more than 100,000 years. The Nesher Ramla people started to dominate the region around 400,000 years ago, while the modern humans arrived nearly 200,000 years ago.

Eventually, at later stages, some Nesher Ramla Homo type populations could have left the region and migrated to Europe, where they attained the typical Neanderthal features. Meanwhile, some other groups of this species may have migrated to parts of Asia, where they eventually evolved to have some Neanderthal-like features of the archaic populations.

The cave sites in the Levant region have yielded a substantial number of valuable fossils in the past—many of which had remained a mystery so far. But now, after comparing the recent finds, the team believes that most such unknown fossils may belong to the same species. This suggests the presence of a large population of the newly-discovered species in the region.

The results have been published in the journal Science and can be accessed here and here.

Not just 'Dragon Man': Israeli scientists identify another human species

The National 27 June, 2021 - 11:02am



Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 27 June 2021

The hitherto unknown human ancestors have been called "Nesher Ramla Homo type" by the scientists, who uncovered the remains near the city of Ramla, south of Tel Aviv.

Parts of a skull discovered at the site could be up to 140,000 years old.

The Nesher Ramla Homo group, the team believes, were thriving in what is now the Middle East 400,000 years ago, probably related to "pre-Neanderthal" inhabitants of Europe.

Neanderthals, or Homo sapiens neanderthalensis, were the predecessors of modern humans, around forty millennia ago.

They likely became extinct over generations through breeding with their successors, Early Modern Humans, but also faced harsh climatic conditions.

"This is the first time we could connect the dots between different specimens found in the Levant" said Tel Aviv University’s Dr Rachel Sarig.

"There are several human fossils from the caves of Qesem, Zuttiyeh and Tabun that date back to that time that we could not attribute to any specific known group of humans. But comparing their shapes to those of the newly uncovered specimen from Nesher Ramla justify their inclusion within the [new human] group."

According to Dr Hila May, also of Tel Aviv University, the findings will change how we understand human evolution; the remains of the first identified Neanderthal were found in Neandertal valley, Germany in 1856.

That led some scientists to believe that early humans originated in Europe or had been nomads who reached Germany from Asia.

That changed with the discovery of the remains of Homininae, or an early species of humans in Kenya in 1974.

The advent of DNA analysis in the 1980s was another leap forward in the study of early man, again pointing to East Africa as the cradle of human civilisation.

On Friday, a series of papers published in scientific journal The Innovation announced the identification of another new human species or sub-species, Homo longi, based on a well-preserved skull first found in 1933 but only recently examined by scientists.

"Dragon Man” was named after where his skull was discovered in Harbin City, China, and could be up to 300,000 years old.

"We had never imagined that alongside Homo sapiens, archaic Homo roamed the area so late in human history," lead archaeologist Yossi Zaidner said.

"The morphology of the Nesher Ramla humans shares features with both Neanderthals ... and archaic Homo," the researchers said in a statement.

"At the same time, this type of Homo is very unlike modern humans – displaying a completely different skull structure, no chin and very large teeth."

In line with the modern understanding of Neanderthals, the Nesher Ramla Homo were more advanced than the primitive caveman image that has captured the popular imagination since the early 20th century.

"The archaeological finds associated with human fossils show that 'Nesher Ramla Homo' possessed advanced stone-tool production technologies and most likely interacted with the local Homo sapiens," Mr Zaidner said.

Updated: June 26, 2021 06:19 PM

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Scientists Identified New Human Species and It's the Closest One to Us Yet

Interesting Engineering 26 June, 2021 - 01:23pm

The news about the 'Dragon man' came just days after another ancient human species discovery.

Just days ago, researchers from Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem identified a new lineage which they dubbed "Nesher Ramla Homo type." 

"The Harbin fossil is one of the most complete human cranial fossils in the world," said in a statement author Qiang Ji, a professor of paleontology of Hebei GEO University. "This fossil preserved many morphological details that are critical for understanding the evolution of the Homo genus and the origin of Homo sapiens."

Perhaps what is even more impressive than the skull's discovery is its story. It was first spotted by a Chinese man in 1933 in Harbin City, in Heilongjiang, China's northernmost province. The man was a labor contractor for the Japanese invaders and did not want to turn over the skull to his Japanese superior.

The team of researchers dated the Harbin fossil to at least 146,000 years, placing it in the Middle Pleistocene, and also found that Homo longi is one of our closest hominin relatives, even more closely related to us than the Neanderthals. "It is widely believed that the Neanderthal belongs to an extinct lineage that is the closest relative of our own species. However, our discovery suggests that the new lineage we identified that includes Homo longi is the actual sister group of H. sapiens," concluded Ni.

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