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Denisovan Girl's Tooth Found in Laos

Researchers have uncovered a tooth in a cave in Laos that they suspect belonged to a Denisovan, placing the archaic human species in the region for the first time, CNN reports.

It notes that, previously, fossils from Denisovans had only been found in caves in North Asia, particularly in Siberia, but that genetic evidence suggested they had closer ties to Southeast Asia. In a new paper appearing in Nature Communications, an international team of researchers report that they uncovered a molar from a rock layer that is between 131,000 and 164,000 years old — before the arrival of modern humans in the region, as Nature News notes.

Paleoproteomic analysis indicated the tooth belonged to a member of the Homo genus and morphological analysis found it differed from those of H. floresiensis, H. luzonensis, and H. sapiens. Instead, it appeared to have a mix of Neanderthal-like and H. erectus-like features and further resembled a Denisovan specimen uncovered in Tibet.

"This demonstrates that the Denisovans were likely present also in southern Asia. And it supports the results of geneticists who say that modern humans and the Denisovans might have met in Southeast Asia," study author Clément Zanolli from the French National Center for Scientific Research and the University of Bordeaux tells CNN.