Archaeologists examined a tooth found in the Denisova Cave, Altai mountains, Russia, within deposits dating back to 126000-225000 BC revealing it belonged to remains of a fourth Denisovan individual – a species of extinct hominin – found at the site.
The fossil is a baby tooth, a molar, possibly belonging to a 10- to 12-year-old girl. Its crown was almost completely worn away when researchers unearthed it. Researchers collected a 10 milligram sample for analysis of the surviving DNA, which revealed that the fossil belonged to a Denisovan girl. The age of the sediments in which it was found makes the tooth one of the oldest human specimens discovered in central Asia to date, and about 50,000 to 100,000 years older than the first known Denisovan fossil. According to archaeologists, this indicates that Denisovans were present in the Altai area for a very long time, increasing the chances that the Denisovans and the Neanderthals may have interacted and interbred. The discovered low genetic diversity between the samples is linked with the possible small population size, but it is also possible that as all four Denisovan fossils come from the same place they represent an isolated population. Earlier it was proven that the Denisovans were nearly as genetically distinct from Neanderthals as Neanderthals were from modern humans, with the ancestors of Denisovans and Neanderthals splitting about 190000 to 470000 years ago.
(after Live Science, The New York Times, Bence Viola, Viviane Slon, Gabriel Renaud, Marie-Theres Gansauge, Stefano Benazzi, Susanna Sawyer, Jean-Jacques Hublin, Michael V. Shunkov, Anatoly P. Derevianko, Janet Kelso, Kay Prüfer, Matthias Meyer & Svante Pääb)