Neanderthals were NOT a sub-species of modern humans

Researchers claim Neanderthals were NOT a sub-species of modern humans


Researchers have identified new evidence supporting the growing belief that Neanderthals were a distinct species separate from modern humans (Homo sapiens), and not a subspecies of modern humans. The study also found that the Neanderthal nasal complex was not adaptively inferior to that of modern humans, and that the Neanderthals' extinction was likely due to competition from modern humans and not an inability of the Neanderthal nose to process a colder and drier climate, as has been previously suggested.

Samuel Márquez, PhD, associate professor and co-discipline director of gross anatomy in SUNY Downstate's Department of Cell Biology, and his team of specialists published their findings on the Neanderthal nasal complex in the November issue of The Anatomical Record .

They argue that studies of the Neanderthal nose, which have spanned over a century and a half, have been approaching this anatomical enigma from the wrong perspective. Previous work has compared Neanderthal nasal dimensions to modern human populations such as the Inuit and modern Europeans, whose nasal complexes are adapted to cold and temperate climates.

However, the current study joins a growing body of evidence that the upper respiratory tracts of this extinct group functioned via a different set of rules as a result of a separate evolutionary history and overall cranial bauplan (bodyplan), resulting in a mosaic of features not found among any population of Homo sapiens. Thus Dr. Márquez and his team of paleoanthropologists, comparative anatomists, and an otolaryngologist have contributed to the understanding of two of the most controversial topics in paleoanthropology -- were Neanderthals a different species from modern humans and which aspects of their cranial morphology evolved as adaptations to cold stress.

"The strategy was to have a comprehensive examination of the nasal region of diverse modern human population groups and then compare the data with the fossil evidence. We used traditional morphometrics, geometric morphometric methodology based on 3D coordinate data, and CT imaging," Dr. Márquez explained.

Neanderthal skull discovered in 1908 at La Chapelle-aux-Saints

Neanderthal skull discovered in 1908 at La Chapelle-aux-Saints ( Wikipedia). The new study found distinctive differences between the Neanderthal and Homo sapiens nasal complex.

Co-author William Lawson, MD, DDS, vice-chair and the Eugen Grabscheid research professor of otolaryngology and director of the Paleorhinology Laboratory of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, notes that the external nasal aperture of the Neanderthals approximates some modern human populations but that their midfacial prognathism (protrusion of the midface) is startlingly different. That difference is one of a number of traits suggesting an evolutionary development distinct from that of modern humans. Dr. Lawson's conclusion is predicated upon nearly four decades of clinical practice, in which he has seen over 7,000 patients representing a rich diversity of human nasal anatomy.

Jeffrey T. Laitman, co-author and Professor at the Icahn School of Medicine and director of the Center for Anatomy and Functional Morphology states that this article is a significant contribution to the question of Neanderthal cold adaptation in the nasal region.

"The strength of this new research lies in its taking the totality of the Neanderthal nasal complex into account, rather than looking at a single feature. By looking at the complete morphological pattern, we can conclude that Neanderthals are our close relatives, but they are not us," said Dr. Laitman.

Ian Tattersall, PhD, emeritus curator of the Division of Anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History, an expert on Neanderthal anatomy and functional morphology who did not participate in this study, stated, "Márquez and colleagues have carried out a most provocative and intriguing investigation of a very significant complex in the Neanderthal skull that has all too frequently been overlooked." Dr. Tattersall hopes that "with luck, this research will stimulate future research demonstrating once and for all that Homo neanderthalensis deserves a distinctive identity of its own."

Featured image: Wax model of a Neanderthal. Credit: Erich Ferdinand / flickr


SUNY Downstate Medical Center. "Were Neanderthals a sub-species of modern humans? New research says no." ScienceDaily. 18 November 2014.

Journal Reference :

Samuel Márquez, Anthony S. Pagano, Eric Delson, William Lawson, Jeffrey T. Laitman.  The Nasal Complex of Neanderthals: An Entry Portal to their Place in Human Ancestry . The Anatomical Record, 2014; 297 (11): 2121 DOI: 10.1002/ar.23040

By April Hollowa


Roberto Peron's picture

143,000 years ago Homo erectus walked the earth.  200,000 years ago Homo heidelbergensis also walked the earth.  Both coexted and overlapped and most paleoanthropologists today believe several species of ancient human ancestors coexisted for a time.  MS science says H. sapiens are presently the only species and all other ancient human ancestors are now extinct.  I do NOT adhere to that theory as the norm has been several Homo species coexisting so why not today?  Yes the further back in time we move the greater the number of "missing links” (aka: Transitional species).  There are similarities to these ancient hominids but there are also some blatant differences.  Essentially you are right but I’d like to know your thoughts as to if we didn't evolve here (on Earth) then where do you think we evolved?


H. Sapiens Mitochondrial DNA only goes back 200,000yrs and fossil records only start 120,000yrs ago. If we didn't 'evolve' from the 1 or 2 hominid species present at that same time, we have a problem. The further back in time you move the 'split' the greater the number of 'missing transitional species' that are going to be needed to get from there to H. Sapiens. We are nothing like what was already here 200,000yrs ago. They are still here, but MS science can't admit it because that would mean that we, H. Sapiens, didn't evolve here and that's a problem! Am I missing something or am I right?

VALUED CUSTOMER WROTE; Given the relative robustness of Neanderthals to H. sapiens, it is unlikely Neanderthal females were often subjected to opportunistic enslavement and ensuing rape, as has all too often been the case in H. sapiens.
Depends upon the age females and fitness of males along with number of males. Gang rapes were a common place in the past as the present if not more so.

VALUED CUSTOMER, research indicates that both Neanderthal Nuclear DNA (male) and mtDNA (female) lines of decent are not evident in any living Homo Sapient populations.
Most likely the male hybrids of either a Neanderthal M /Sapient F union or Sapient M /Neanderthal F union were mostly if not all sterile while most female hybrids may had be able to produce more fertile offspring.
Neanderthal populations eventually were phased out by disease, low genetic diversity from incest with a rise of birth defects, injuries, tribal wars, etc., Only Homo Sapiens survived leaving a smaller mate selection for any still existing hybrids. Eventually only Homo Sapient lines of decent would replace the former.

Goldlions and Rwth Hunt, all hominids evidence sociality, as well as sexual dimorphism, strongly indicating that females depended on groups for their survival.

As Neanderthals are supposed extinct, such groups would have all died. Since mitochondrial DNA is only derived from females, the extinction of Neanderthal societies would have also ended those MTDNA lineages.

Only the reverse gene flow, of DNA passed on by Neanderthal males, could have survived, as H. sapien females survived in surviving H. sapien communities.

While it is not inconceivable that H. neanderthalensis females were adopted by H. sapiens communities, the lack of surviving Neanderthal mitochondrial DNA that would have been introduced is not in evidence.

Given the relative robustness of Neanderthals to H. sapiens, it is unlikely Neanderthal females were often subjected to opportunistic enslavement and ensuing rape, as has all too often been the case in H. sapiens.

For these reasons, generally, H. neanderthal mitochondrial DNA seems no longer to be extant in H. sapiens populations.


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