Prehistoric teeth may reveal new human species

By - Bad Breath Expert

SUMMARY: Newly examined fossils suggest there was another type of prehistoric human species.

Posted: January 29, 2015

Did you know that as recently as 60,000 years ago there were several other species of human beings? It may seem bizarre, but newly studied fossil evidence suggests that an interbred or unknown species of humans existed in northern China during this period. Remarkably, scientists have already identified four distinct species: Neanderthals, the Denisovans, Homo floresiensis in Indonesia and a group believed to have interbred with the Denisovans . However, recent research suggests there may be another group, and one of the primary pieces of evidence is teeth found in Xujiayoa, China. Though these fossils were discovered in a cave in 1976, they only came under thorough examination as of late, and the findings hint that the teeth may belong to a yet-to-be-identified species.

Our complex history 
An examination and analysis of the teeth has been published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology. Researchers cannot clearly  link the teeth into a known species, although they seem sure it is neither from Homo sapiens or Neanderthals. Since the bones aren't easily categorized, scientists have a wide range of opinions on what species they may belong to. Evidence suggests that the Denisovans interbred with Homo sapiens once upon a time, but little is known about their species. 

Of course, one conclusion is that the teeth belong to a hybrid of multiple species. Currently, fossils in Asia are rare to come by and make it difficult to paint a full picture of the past. However, since researchers have been finding unique artifacts in the region, China and other parts of Asia are increasingly being explored. Excavating more fossils may be the key to identifying exactly where the human race originated, and provide understanding for how we outlived other species. 

Teeth play a big role in this research, as they distinctly differ by species. María Martinón-Torres of the National Research Centre on Human Evolution explained to BBC Earth:

"Teeth are like 'landscapes in miniature'. Each of those slopes, grooves, valleys define a pattern or combination of features that can be distinctive of a population." 

Using these features, Martinón-Torres and other scientists are able to group fossil samples by species. When the recently examined samples did not match any of the other species, it raised some interesting questions for scientists worldwide. All in all, teeth have the ability to showcase evolution, and may be the key in solving the mysteries of our past. 

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