Molar from Fourth Denisovan Extends “Meager” Fossil Record

Popular Archeology | 7/7/2017 | Staff
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Scientists studying a newly discovered molar from the Denisova Cave in Siberia estimate the tooth is at least 20,000 years older than previously examined Denisovan fossils. The finding has important implications for understanding hominin evolution and adds to the “meager Denisovan fossil record,” of just three other Denisovan individuals, the authors say. What’s more, the molar provides evidence that Denisovans were present for a longer time in the region, allowing for more potential mingling between Neanderthals and Denisovans. The poor preservation of the molar was a challenge for Viviane Slon, Svante Pääbo, and colleagues as they analyzed the tooth. Nonetheless, they were able to extract DNA and compare the sequence to other Denisovan samples, as well as Neanderthal and human DNA. Results suggested that the female owner of the deciduous tooth, or “baby tooth,” lived at least 100,000 years ago. This age would make the tooth one of the oldest hominin remains discovered in Central Asia to date. The DNA found in the tooth is consistent with low levels of diversity among DNA from all the Denisovan samples recovered from the cave, the authors say, comparable to the lower range of genetic diversity in modern human populations. It’s possible, however, the samples from the cave represent an isolated population and that the genetic diversity of Denisovans across their geographical range was...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Popular Archeology
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