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Fourth Denisovan fossil found

A fourth fossil of an individual belonging to the extinct hominin species known as the Denisovans has been found in Siberia.

Now, scientists have revealed that they have a fourth Denisovan fossil โ€” a “baby tooth” that likely fell from the jaw of a 10- to 12-year-old girl, said study lead author Viviane Slon, a paleogeneticist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

“Any additional Denisovan individual that we can identify at this point is very exciting for us,” Slon told Live Science.

The crown of the “baby” molar was almost completely worn away when researchers unearthed it. To help preserve the fossil, the researchers used 3D X-rays of the tooth to help find the best way to extract as little powder from the molar as possible. Next, they analyzed what little surviving DNA they could from about 10 milligrams of tooth powder, confirming that the fossil belonged to a Denisovan girl.

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Story: Charles Q. Choi, Live Science | Photo: Slon et al. Sci. Adv. 2017; 3: e1700186

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