A molar from 50,000 years ago will tell scientists a lot about the people who lived alongside modern humans and Neanderthals. In 2010, a molar belonging to the hominid species of the Denisovans was found in a cave, and this ancient tooth was so large that it was initially mistaken as a tooth belonging to a cave bear. To learn more about this Denisovan woman who lived during the era when modern humans and Neanderthals walked the Earth, the scientists look at the mitochondrial DNA on the molar, a genetic material that holds up in fossils. Today we will go over some of the most interesting fossilized teeth (human and animal) from ancient times.
Fossilized Shark Teeth
Fossilized shark teeth as big as a human’s hand washed up on the beaches of North Carolina in 2015. The fossilized teeth, a dingy gray color, once belonged to the now extinct 60-foot Megalodon shark. (In case you didn’t know, fossilized shark teeth are not white because they are usually covered with sediment. It is this sediment which prevents oxygen and bacteria from getting to them.)
While the consensus of most scientists is that this prehistoric shark is extinct, there are many who believe that the Megalodon shark still lives deep in the ocean, but since every tooth found from this shark is ancient, there is not much evidence of this speculation.
Fossilized Monkey Teeth
The fossilized teeth of an unknown species of monkey was found in Panama this year, proving to be the oldest known evidence of monkeys in North America. Finding fossils in tropical parts of the world are usually hard to find, but in this case, the fossilized upper molar from the newly found monkey species was discovered in a fossil-bearing rock from the Miocene epoch. The photo to the upper left shows the fossilized upper molar of a P. transitus species of monkey. Some scientists now wonder if primates crossed a water barrier and traveled into North America 18 millions years earlier than previously thought. Fossilized teeth are one of the best ways for researchers to investigate the numerous possibilities of ancient species.
It’s incredible what we can learn from the teeth of today and the past. To learn more about your teeth, call Carolina Smiles Family Dentistry today for an appointment!
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