Newly discovered skull thought to be an archaic human species’, dubbed Dragon Man, has made us take a step back from the theory of evolution and question its exactness.
It’s 1943. A Chinese construction worker finds a weird skull while digging. This skull looks different, weirder than a human skull. As a way to not let the invading Japanese soldiers get their hands on this discovery, he hides it in a well. No one knows. On his deathbed he confesses to his kids and grandkids. The grandkids donate the skull to a university. The worker’s prediction is right – the skull is important. Very important, in fact, it might change the way the world sees evolution.
Um, this is not a plot for some movie, but it might as well have been.
The skull is over 140,000 years old and has brought a storm of debate and questions in the world of paleontology(hi, Ross!) and science in general.
The Dragon Man, known to specialists as the homo longi was identified very recently and might be the closest cousin of homo sapiens.
The fossil, i.e., the preserved skull was found in 1943 in a surprisingly well-kept condition. Usually, when it’s been over a 100,000 years, the normal condition bones are found in is either powdered, scattered or broken. Scientists then have to construct a palatable design for how it might have looked like all those years back. This skull, though, was perfectly preserved, except the absence of all teeth but a molar.
The size? 9 inches long, 6 inches wide. The brain box looks like it held a brain almost the size of ours(which is a huge thing, seeing as homo brains weren’t always so evolved), the cheekbones are almost flat and low like ours, and eye sockets close to squares.
This skull is called the Harbin cranium and the creature dubbed Dragon Man, because, well, the land of dragons?
Our closest human ancestor?
Before the discovery of the homo longi, Neanderthal was considered our closest archaic ancestor according to the theory of evolution and subsequent discoveries.
This species had gone extinct possibly due to assimilation and inability to adapt to climatic change.
The Dragon Man, however, might be even younger than Neanderthals. If this is true, the homo longi might be our ‘sister group’ or ‘sister species’, and not Neanders.
Not all scientists are convinced, hey.
As much as we, the nerds, would like to think that they’ve discovered our ancient first cousin, not all scientists are fully convinced. This is because the skull of another relative of ours, the Denisovan, hasn’t yet been found.
We know about this species only from a few skeletal remains that have enabled us to check for its DNA. Now, these scientists believe that the Dragon Man skull might as well belong to a Denisovan, but we’ll only find that out once they’re able to extract the DNA.
Why does it matter who lived thousands of years ago?
Well, for one, knowing and being able to map the exact species and the time they lived during helps us understand the stages of evolution, which in turn helps us dot a future prediction. (You didn’t think evolution stopped and that humans will live forever, right?) A second reason why this skull is important is that even if it turns out to be a Denisovan, we might finally be able to put a face on our ancestor uncles.
Another speculation, one that will interest you, is the possibily of interbreeding. You see, the skull we found(50M), is around 146,000 years old. Human beings, however, blessed the earth with their presence at least 300,000 years back. This means there’s a fat chance the homo longi walked among us.
Which brings us to interbreeding. It’s highly likely that the longis and the sapiens were involved in hanky-panky. Does that mean some of us might not be pure-breed homo sapiens, after all? We’ll leave you with that question.
Tell your friends about Dragon Man; share our questionable existence!
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