Teeth of Denisovans and modern Asians do not resemble each other according to a new study

The supposed similarities between the teeth of modern Asian humans and Denisovans, the now known extinct human population that lived at the same time as the Neanderthals and Homo sapiens, has been refuted by a new study involving researchers from the Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana (CENIEH).

It is estimated that the DNA of Denisovans is present in 4-6% of the current populations in the area of Australia, Melanesia and Papua New Guinea. However, even with this high level of DNA diffusion, little is known about the so-called Denisovans, so called because the only known and analysed remains have been found in a cave of the same name in Siberia.

The study comes after a recent research, which has attracted a certain level of attention, concerning the analysis of a piece of denisovan jaw that had, according to the researchers who produced that study, some characteristics in common with the jaws of the present Asian populations. An assumption that suggested that modern Asian populations have inherited this characteristic from the Denisovans.

In this new study, carried out by the paleoanthropologist María Martinón-Torres, who used the contribution of scientists expert in human dentistry, disproves this theory. According to the new study, the configuration of the teeth of the jaw is different from that of modern human populations in Asia, in particular with regard to the third root, which differs in size, shape and position.

The denisovan jaw, in fact, has three roots, as well as the jaws in the present populations of the aforementioned Asian areas, but according to Martinón-Torres this similarity is due to another genetic variation different from that of the denisovans.

“They are similar only in appearance, they have different characteristics”, says the Martinón. “Although teeth are the best tool we have to study extinct species, we must be very careful and not exaggerate with interpretations of isolated characteristics. To talk about introgression between species because of a common characteristic, and this is not even the case here, is very risky”.

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