Jun 26, 2021 - Science

Discovery of "Dragon Man" skull challenges theories of human evolution

Image of the skull of a Homo sapien.
Skull of Homo sapien. Photo: DeAgostini/Getty Images

Scientists on Friday announced that a 146,000-year-old massive fossilized skull is a new species of ancient human, according to the New York Times.

Why it matters: The discovery of the new species — dubbed Homo longi, or "Dragon Man" — could challenge existing theories on human evolution, per the NYT. Researchers say the discovery could replace Neanderthals as the closest relative to Homo sapiens, according to NBC News.

Yes, but: Some experts dispute the conclusion published in three papers.

Experts still say that the discovery could help scientists reconstruct the human family tree and explain how modern humans emerged.

  • The skull, which belonged to a mature male who boasted a big brain and massive brow ridges, was given called "Dragon man," named for the Dragon River region of northeast China where the skull was found.

What they're saying: “It is widely believed that the Neanderthal belongs to an extinct lineage that is the closest relative of our own species," Xijun Ni, a co-author of the studies and a paleoanthropologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Hebei GEO University said in a news release.

  • "However, our discovery suggests that the new lineage we identified that includes Homo longi is the actual sister group of H. sapiens.”
  • “It’s a beautiful thing,” John Hawks, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told the NYT. “It’s very rare to find a fossil like this, with a face in good condition. You dream of finding this stuff.”
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