A molar adds to suspicions that the mysterious hominids inhabited Southeast Asia’s forests
|According to scientists, a newly discovered fossil tooth from Southeast Asia (seen from several angles) belonged to a Denisovan female who lived between 164,000 and 131,000 years ago.
NATURE COMMUNICATIONS 2022/F. DEMETER ET AL
According to researchers, molar teeth discovered in Southeast Asia belonged to a member of the Denisovans, a mysterious Stone Age human tribe.
If that’s the case, this unusually massive tooth joins a small group of Denisovan fossils identified by ancient DNA as near Neandertal relatives.
The molar came from a girl of the Homo genus, according to analyses of the tooth’s internal structure and protein composition. According to paleoanthropologist Fabrice Demeter of the University of Copenhagen and colleagues, she died between the ages of 312 and 812.
Previously, a Denisovan molar from at least 160,000 years ago was discovered on the Tibetan Plateau (SN: 12/16/19). The newly discovered teeth bear a striking resemblance to the other molar, implying that it is also Denisovan, the team writes in Nature Communications on May 17. All known fossils from the mystery hominids had been discovered in Siberia prior to the discovery of the Tibetan Plateau tooth.
The tooth found in Tam Ngu Hao 2, or Cobra Cave, in Laos, is estimated to be between 164,000 and 131,000 years old, based on the ages of the silt and fossil animal bones found there.
According to Demeter, the Cobra Cave tooth could be a Neandertal or someone with Denisovan and Neandertal lineage (SN: 8/22/18). His team aims to harvest DNA from the relic, which will help them figure out where it belongs in the evolutionary tree.
According to Demeter, at least five Homo species, including Denisovans, lived in Southeast Asia between 150,000 and 40,000 years ago. Homo sapiens, Homo erectus (SN: 12/18/19), Homo luzonensis (SN: 4/10/19), and Homo floresiensis (SN: 3/30/16), also known as hobbits, are among the others, according to him.
Denisovans are still considered by some academics to be one of several closely related ancient Homo populations rather than a separate species (SN: 6/25/21). Whatever evolutionary identification Denisovans had, the Cobra Cave tooth supports the theory that they lived in Southeast Asia’s tropical woods, Central Asia’s icy mountain ranges, and Siberia.
F. Demeter et al. A Middle Pleistocene Denisovan molar from the Annamite Chain of northern Laos. Nature Communications. Published May 17, 2022. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-29923-z.