Researchers from China have recently claimed that they have found a massive fossilized ancient human skull that could belong to an altogether new species of humans.
The researchers have published their findings in the journal ‘The Innovation’.
One of the UK’s leading experts in human evolution, Prof Chris Stringer from London’s Natural History Museum, was also a member of the research team.
The researchers note that the cranium (the portion that encloses the brain) could be over 146,000 years old.
The skull was found in the Songhua River in north-east China’s Harbin city.
The cranium has been dubbed the “Dragon Man” or Homo longi, a name that has been derived from the Long Jiang or Dragon River in the Heilongjiang province of China where the city of Harbin is located.
Some members of the team have suggested that it be declared a part of a new species of the genus Homo because of the distinctive shape of the skull, which was found almost complete.
Nesher Ramla Homo:
Separate news came recently where the researchers working in Israel where they also identified a previously unknown type of ancient human that lived alongside our species more than 100,000 years ago.
The scientists named the newly discovered lineage the “Nesher Ramla Homo” that co-existed with Homo sapiens nearly 100,000 years ago when several species of humans co-existed in Asia, Europe and Africa.
These include Homo sapiens, the Neanderthals, and the Denisovans.
More About Human Species:
Modern humans are the only human species that exist in the world today.
As per the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, there are over 21 human species. These are:
- Sahelanthropus tchadensis is believed to be the oldest member of the human family tree. According to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, this species lived about 7-6 million years ago somewhere around present-day Chad in Africa. Researchers only have cranial material as evidence that this species existed, from which they have deciphered that it had both ape-like and human-like features and was bipedalled, an ability that may have increased its chances of survival.
- Orrorin tugenensis lived about 6.2-5.8 million years ago in Eastern Africa. As per the Smithsonian Museum, this species is the oldest early human on the family tree and members from this species were approximately the size of a chimpanzee.
- Ardipithecus kadabba lived 5.8-5.2 million years ago, in Eastern Africa. They were bipedalled, and are believed to have had a body size similar to that of modern chimpanzees.
- Ardipithecus ramidus lived about 4.4 million years ago in Eastern Africa and was first reported in 1994. It is not clear if this species was bipedalled.
- Australopithecus anamensis lived about 4.2-3.8 million years ago. A skull belonging to this species was discovered in Ethiopia in 2016 at a palaeontological site. Two studies published in 2019 analyzed this skull and determined that it was older than Lucy, the name for another specimen belonging to the species Australopithecus afarensis, which was previously thought to be the oldest ancestor of modern humans. The new research also indicated that the two species (Lucy and her ancestors) co-existed for at least 100,000 years.
- Australopithecus afarensis (members from Lucy’s species) existed 3.85-2.95 million years ago in Africa. Paleontologists have discovered remains from over 300 individuals belonging to this species over the years.
- Kenyanthropus platyops lived about 3.5 million years ago in Kenya. The Smithsonian Museum notes that the species inhabited Africa at the same time as Lucy’s species did, which could mean that there is a closer branch to modern humans than Lucy’s on the evolutionary tree.
- Australopithecus africanus lived about 3.3-2.1 million years ago in Southern Africa. This species had a combination of human and ape-like features.
- Paranthropus aethiopicus lived about 2.7-2.3 million years ago in Eastern Africa and members of this species are defined by their strongly protruding face, large teeth, and powerful jaw.
- Australopithecus garhi lived about 2.5 million years ago in Eastern Africa, and is characterized by their long, powerful arms. The Smithsonian museum notes that the arms could mean the longer strides needed during bipedal walking.
- Paranthropus boisei lived about 2.3-1.2 million years ago in Eastern Africa, and were characterized by a skull that was specialized for heavy chewing.
- Paranthropus robustus lived about 1.8-1.2 million years ago in Southern Africa and were characterized by their wide, deep-dished faces.
- Australopithecus sediba lived about 1.9 million years ago in Southern Africa. Members of this species had facial features similar to the later specimens of Homo.
- Homo habilis lived about 2.4-1.4 million years ago in Eastern and Southern Africa and is one of the earliest members of the genus Homo. Members of this species still retained some of the ape-like features, however.
- Homo erectus lived about 1.89 million-110,000 years ago, in Northern, Eastern, and Southern Africa and Western and East Asia. ‘Turkana Boy’ is the most complete fossil belonging to this species and is dated to be around 1.6 million years old.
- Homo floresiensis lived around 100,000-50,000 years ago, in Asia. One of the most recently discovered early human species has been nicknamed the “Hobbit”. Specimens have so far only been found on an Indonesian island.
- Homo heidelbergensis lived about 700,000-200,000 years ago in Europe, some parts of Asia, and Africa. As per the Smithsonian museum, this was the first early human species to live in colder climes.
- Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) are believed to be the closest extinct human relatives and lived about 400,000-40,000 years ago in Europe and southwestern to central Asia.
- Homo sapiens, the species to which all existing humans belong, evolved in Africa nearly 300,000 years ago as a result of some dramatic climate change events.