Nothing But Tooth

Tooth from three different views (from the referenced paper)

Do you swear to pull the tooth, the whole tooth, and nothing but the tooth?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

A century ago, thirteen teeth were found on the European island of Jersey inside Saint Brelade cave. Scientists assumed the teeth belonged to Neanderthals. Neanderthals, who lived in Jersey thousands of years ago, are our ancestors’ genetic cousins, now extinct. The scientists didn’t think the teeth were interesting and put them aside for one hundred years.

Until Tim Compton from the Natural History Museum, UK, and his international team came along.

With a supercomputer microscope, they zoomed into the teeth. The gum line of these teeth are not like the Neanderthals’. They are more like our DIRECT HUMAN ANCESTORS’!

What does this mean? The teeth owners had both human and Neanderthal traits, suggesting some POSSIBLE genetic mixing. Unfortunately, there are too few teeth to do any genetic testing.

But Compton’s study suggests that Neanderthals might not be our EXTINCT genetic cousins after all. They could be our genetic GRANDPARENTS!

You know what they say: the tooth will out!

Reference: Compton, T., Skinner, M. M., Humphrey, L., Pope, M., Bates, M., Davies, T. W., Parfitt, S. A., Plummer, W. P., Scott, B., Shaw, A., & Stringer, C. (2021). The morphology of the Late Pleistocene hominin remains from the site of La Cotte de St Brelade, Jersey (Channel Islands). Journal of Human Evolution, 152, 102939.