Move over, Neanderthal?
Despite being nearly perfectly preserved—with square eye sockets, thick brow ridges, and large teeth—nobody could work out exactly what it was. The skull is much bigger than that of Homo sapiens and other human species—and its brain size is similar to that of our own species. Historical events left it without a secure place of origin or date, until today.
Now a team of Chinese, Australian, and British researchers has finally solved the puzzle—the skull represents a previously unknown extinct human species. The research, published as three studies in the journal Innovation, suggests this is our closest relative in the human family tree.Anthony Sinclair, “Is Homo longi an Extinct Human Species?” at Sapiens (August 4, 2021)
Homo longi is believed to have been fifty years old when he died 146,000 years ago.
But read on. There are problems with this interpretation:
The predicted dates for the common ancestors between human lineages do not match the dates of actual discovered fossils or those predicted by the analysis of DNA.
For example, this study proposes that Homo sapiens were in Eurasia at about 400,000 years ago. But the oldest fossil for this species known outside Africa is little more than half this age. At the same time, the split between Homo sapiens and Neanderthals predicted here at more than 1 million years old does not match the prediction of nuclear DNA analysis, which suggests it happened much later. However, it can be backed up by doing DNA analysis with genetic material taken from the cell’s engine, called the mitochondria.
The older estimates presented by this study may result from the use of new techniques, called Bayesian tip dating, which aren’t normally used in evolutionary studies.Anthony Sinclair, “Is Homo longi an Extinct Human Species?” at Sapiens (August 4, 2021)
Sinclair adds that many of these “species” interbred.
In short, the claims may rest on a flimsy foundation.
See also: Human evolution at your fingertips