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



Through out human history since the begining of time were "race wars", "my tribe is better than your tribe", etc., and with it came occassional rape.
Though I wouldn't be surprised if both H. Sapiens and Neanderthal engaged in rape on opposite females, it's interesting how no living populations of Homo Sapiens seem to carry the female Neanderthal mtDNA bloodline.
This seems to indicate either only Male Neanderthal/Female H. Sapiens were able to occassionally bare fertile offspring which passed on the mtDNA bloodline of H. Sapiens?
BTW., Another interesting fact is that Neanderthals had somewhat larger brains than H. Sapiens, but not by that much. Brain sizes were varied on both sides.
Neanderthals did not normally walked in a stooped posture. An early anthropologist/artist speculated this in error based on an old male Neanderthal skeleton which suffered from osteoarthris and other skeletal disease/injuries found in Southern France in 1908.

It's more likely that Sapiense males raped Neanderthal women. Neanderthal babies would have had a larger skull and birth to Sapiens women more erect than Neanderthals and would have been more at risk of death in childbirth. They would very likely have been living in different tribes in different territories and the Neanderthals didn't use the more delicate spearheads that the Sapiens people did. They would stab their prey rather than throwing the spears at it, so would have to hunt at closer quarters with more danger of death in the process.

For this reason, Neanderthals were not necessarily innovative, though they did wear jewellery had rituals and beliefts as did the Sapiens. The Sapiens genes were more frequent as the Neanderthals began to die out, but the Neanderthal genes did persist. Perhaps the Sapiens Neanderthals were more intuitive and were able to fulfil certain roles in Sapiens society that ensured the survival of their genes. A reverence for tradition can be a useful trait in a community where progress is god.

Roberto Peron's picture

Some models already show Neandertals as a separate species from Homo sapiens (modern humans) with the common ancestor being Homo heidelbergensis.  They reflect that there was a split with modern humans going one way and Neandertals going another (to a dead end).  If these models are correct then Neandertals became extinct for whatever reason as we don't yet know for certain.  Thus, they would NOT be a sub-species of modern humans.

And then there is the Neandertal DNA in all Non-Africans today which amounts to between 2%--4% of our DNA.  Inbreeding with H. sapiens?  Rape?  Both?  I think Neandertals knew they were becoming extinct so they may have well taken their only option for survival to some measure (ie:  inbreeding with H. sapiens).  It is natural instinct to perpetuate one's species and when facing extinction that innate instinct may well grow stronger to the point that all options are acceptable.  Obviously, they were similar enough to us that they could interbreed with our ancient ancestors as proven by the Neandertal DNA within us.  Neandertals were facing desperate times that required desperate measures.  I think they took those desperate measures and inbred with H. sapiens to continue their own species in some measure.

One thing that is very intriguing about Neandertals is that they had larger brains than we do today.  Scientists have maintained that growth in brain size was paramount to our evolution and we see a growing brain in our ancient ancestors UNTIL we get to Neandertals.  In them we find bigger brains than our own so if brain size ensured survival then something is dead wrong about that theory as Neandertals entered into extinction.  I think it's more about how the brain is wired than it is about size, personally.

Finally, the idea that Neandertals were club carrying savage cave men is a POPULAR MYTH and is, in fact, nowhere near the truth.  They manufactured tools.  They made and wore jewelry and other body adornments.  They buried their dead with ritual.  That's hardly the behavior of some throwback cave man.  This species, I strongly suspect, was intelligent and innovative and I think what brought them to extinction was drastic climate changes and, of course, competition with the emerging species of H. sapiens.  Disease may also have played a part in their demise.  



His ife expenancy was aroound 30, dus he was middleaged at appr. 25. For sure he would ook middleaged at that age.

I do not think they died at 30 looking like 30

Sunny Young

I like this well known image portraying neanderthal as a middle age nasty looking male. See, neanderthal life expectancy was 30.


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