My, what big teeth you have.
Perhaps that’s what Neanderthals would’ve said to Denisovans, at least if you consider the latest findings at an archaeological site in Siberia’s Altai Mountains.
A molar tooth found at the site provided genetic evidence for the existence of a human cousin, or hominid species — the Denisovans– discovered in only 2010. The tooth belonged to a woman who lived more than 50,000 years ago, according to news.nationalgeographic.com
The dental analysis fell to Bence Viola, an anthropologist of the University of Toronto who had examined the first Denisovan wisdom tooth and initially mistook it for the tooth of a cave bear, given its size and huge, splayed roots.
Viola found that the two teeth were consistent with one another and different from those of modern humans and Neanderthals—strongly suggesting for the first time that large teeth were part of the Denisovan package.
Though it’s difficult to say what large-toothed Denisovans would have looked like—wisdom teeth have notoriously variable shapes—there’s little doubt that “large teeth with massive roots would probably require massive jaws,” says Viola.
The new study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, helps scientists understand where Denisovans fit in the human family tree.
Other hidden Denisovans may be “scattered throughout Asia, accidentally mislabeled in museums as human or Homo erectus, an ancient hominid ancestor,” said Michael Greshko, in his National Geographic report.
Are the Denisovans hiding in plain sight?
According to news.nationalgeographic.com, researchers won’t know for sure if the Denisovans are hiding in plain sight until they conduct further genetic tests.