Analysis of an ancient human tooth appears to have taken one more bite out of the evolutionary narrative.
The discovery reportedly adds to an increasing body of scientific evidence suggesting that Neanderthals, Denisovans, and modern humans belong to one species. Though it appears to throw a wrench into the theory that humans descended from archaic subspecies that migrated out of Africa, it fits quite well into the Biblical narrative.
The tooth, discovered in the Baishiya Karst Cave in Xiahe, China, nearly 40 years ago, is a three-rooted, lower second molar that evolutionary scientists say dates to 160,000 years ago, much older than the researchers expected. Scientists previously thought the three-rooted molar evolved in Asians long after Homo sapiens dispersed from Africa.
Today, three-rooted molars appear in 40 percent of the Asian population but are quite rare otherwise, occurring in less than 3.5 percent of non-Asian individuals.
The new analysis, which appeared last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, identified the specimen as a Denisovan tooth. Evolutionary scientists believe the Denisovan is an extinct archaic human and sister species to the Neanderthals.
The presence of a three-rooted tooth in the older Denisovan specimen contradicts the idea that Homo sapiens developed the trait later on their own. It is more likely, the researchers said, that Denisovans interbred with Homo sapiens. And where there is interbreeding, there is a strong case that the two species are actually the same.
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Source: Baptist Press