A molar tooth from Southeast Asia most likely belonged to a member of a cryptic group of Stone Age hominids referred to as Denisovans, researchers say.
If that’s the case, this comparatively massive tooth joins solely a handful of fossils from Denisovans, who’re identified from historic DNA pegging them as shut Neandertal family.
Analyses of the tooth’s inner construction and protein make-up point out that the molar got here from a woman within the Homo genus. She died between the ages of 3½ and 8½, paleoanthropologist Fabrice Demeter of the College of Copenhagen and colleagues say.
A Denisovan molar that dates to a minimum of 160,000 years in the past was beforehand discovered on the Tibetan Plateau (SN: 12/16/19). The newly found tooth strongly resembles that different molar, indicating that the brand new discover might be Denisovan too, the crew reviews Could 17 in Nature Communications. Earlier than the Tibetan Plateau tooth, all identified fossils from the mysterious hominids had been present in Siberia.
Estimated ages of sediment and fossil animal bones in Tam Ngu Hao 2, or Cobra Cave, in Laos place the tooth discovered there between 164,000 and 131,000 years previous.
It’s doable that the Cobra Cave tooth represents a Neandertal or somebody with Denisovan and Neandertal ancestry (SN: 8/22/18), Demeter says. His group hopes to extract DNA from the fossil, which might make clear its evolutionary standing.
It now seems that a minimum of 5 Homo species, together with Denisovans, inhabited Southeast Asia between roughly 150,000 and 40,000 years in the past, Demeter says. Others embody Homo sapiens, Homo erectus (SN: 12/18/19), Homo luzonensis (SN: 4/10/19) and Homo floresiensis (SN: 3/30/16), also called hobbits, he contends.
Nonetheless, some researchers regard Denisovans as one in every of a number of carefully associated, historic Homo populations relatively than a definite species (SN: 6/25/21). No matter evolutionary ID Denisovans really held, the Cobra Cave tooth provides to suspicions that the hominids inhabited Southeast Asia’s tropical forests in addition to Central Asia’s chilly mountain ranges and Siberia.