Research ArticleEVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY

Early development of the Neanderthal ribcage reveals a different body shape at birth compared to modern humans

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Science Advances  07 Oct 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 41, eabb4377
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abb4377

Abstract

Ontogenetic studies provide clues for understanding important paleobiological aspects of extinct species. When compared to that of modern humans, the adult Neanderthal thorax was shorter, deeper, and wider. This is related to the wide Neanderthal body and is consistent with their hypothetical large requirements for energy and oxygen. Whether these differences were already established at birth or appeared later during development is unknown. To delve into this question, we use virtual reconstruction tools and geometric morphometrics to recover the 3D morphology of the ribcages of four Neanderthal individuals from birth to around 3 years old: Mezmaiskaya 1, Le Moustier 2, Dederiyeh 1, and Roc de Marsal. Our results indicate that the comparatively deep and short ribcage of the Neanderthals was already present at birth, as were other skeletal species-specific traits. This morphology possibly represents the plesiomorphic condition shared with Homo erectus, and it is likely linked to large energetic requirements.

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