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Waarnemer
Monday, December 26th, 2005, 03:04 PM
Neandertals Had Long Childhoods, Tooth Study Suggests
James Owen
for National Geographic News (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/)
September 20, 2005

Our prolonged childhoods make us Homo sapiens unique among primates. Scientists have a theory to explain this lengthy maturation process: Our brains need many years of learning and physical growth before we're equipped for the complexities of human living.
Now a new study says we weren't the only humans who took their time growing up. Analysis of Neandertal teeth suggests that the extinct species had similarly lengthy childhoods.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Online Early Edition, compared growth rates of Neandertal front teeth with those of three modern human populations: Inuit (Eskimo), English, and southern African.

Anthropology professor Debbie Guatelli-Steinberg of the Ohio State University in Columbus led the team. They found that Neandertal (often spelled "Neanderthal") teeth grew at a similar rate to those of people living today and actually formed slower than those of southern Africans.

The team says tooth growth correlates closely with other aspects of primate development, including life span and brain size.

"Neandertals also had large brains, so it makes sense that they took a long time to grow up, just as modern humans do," Guatelli-Steinberg said.
The team based their findings on layers of tooth enamel.

"Like trees, teeth grow in layers," Guatelli-Steinberg said. "These layers are visible under a microscope, and they represent anywhere from 6 to 12 days' worth of growth in humans. By counting these layers, one can estimate how long it takes for the enamel surface to form."

"It is clear that Neandertals were growing their teeth in comparable or even longer periods of time than some of the modern human populations we studied," she added.

Controversial Question

The question of whether Neandertals, who died out some 35,000 years ago, shared the prolonged childhoods found in modern humans is a controversial one.
Other researchers who studied Neandertal tooth remains reported in 2004 that Neandertals became sexually mature adults by as young as 15 years of age (see "Neandertals Were Fully Developed by Age 15, Experts Say" (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/04/0428_040428_neandertals.html)). The 2004 study found Neandertal wisdom teeth grew 15 percent faster than those of modern humans

Guatelli-Steinberg, though, says the earlier study did not take into account how variable modern populations are in their dental growth—a criticism that was also raised at the time of the 2004 study's publication.
"We examined a much broader range of modern humans, from three different regions of the world," the anthropologist added. "When we did this we found that Neandertal [front teeth] formation spans are comparable to those of modern humans."

Both studies are important in shedding new light on Neandertal development, according to Christopher Dean, professor of anatomy and developmental biology at University College London.

He adds that teeth are the key to finding out when prolonged childhood first emerged in humans.

Teeth "are all we've got, really, because in the fossil record there are no birth certificates," he said. "There's no way of getting a handle on maturation other than looking at teeth tissues, which grow incrementally."
But Dean says much more work is needed, particularly on understanding the development of molar teeth.

"It is molar-emergence times that correlate so closely with life history events such as weaning," he said.

Dying Younger

Neandertals and modern humans may have shared similarly prolonged childhoods. But the fossil record from the late Stone Age (around 40,000 years ago)—when both species where living in Europe and western Asia—suggests that Neandertal adults were dying much younger.

Short life spans, Dean says, would have put populations under serious pressure.

"Neandertals presumably went extinct because they couldn't reproduce fast enough to survive," he said.

Neandertals had much in common with early modern humans—using stone tools to hunt, harnessing fire, burying their dead. But researchers believe other cultural differences may hold the clue to why one group thrived while the other died away.

Modern humans exploited a wider range of materials, including bone and ivory, to build up a bigger arsenal of hunting weaponry. They also appear to have learned how to fish—a skill that Neandertals apparently didn't have.

Even more important may have been the ability of early modern humans to express themselves through art and language.

Early modern humans produced sophisticated forms of both abstract and figurative art, including ivory statuettes and elaborate cave paintings, according to Paul Mellars, professor of prehistory and human evolution at Cambridge University in England (see "Neandertals Beaten by Rivals' Word Skills, Study Says" (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/11/1124_041124_neanderthals_language.html)) .

In a study published the journal Nature in November 2004, he wrote, "Expression at this level of complexity would be almost inconceivable in the absence of complex language systems and in the absence of brains structured very similarly, if not identically, to our own."

Mellars said complex language would have given modern humans a crucial, competitive edge over Neandertals. In contrast with Homo sapiens, there is no direct archaeological evidence for complex language among Neandertals.
So Neandertals and modern humans might have shared similar sized brains and lengthy childhoods. But it in adulthood the two groups likely had very different outlooks on life.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/09/0920_050920_neanderthal.html (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/09/0920_050920_neanderthal.html)

Angelcynn Beorn
Thursday, May 11th, 2006, 06:59 PM
Thanks for the study, it's pretty interesting.


In a study published the journal Nature in November 2004, he wrote, "Expression at this level of complexity would be almost inconceivable in the absence of complex language systems and in the absence of brains structured very similarly, if not identically, to our own."

Mellars said complex language would have given modern humans a crucial, competitive edge over Neandertals. In contrast with Homo sapiens, there is no direct archaeological evidence for complex language among Neandertals.
So Neandertals and modern humans might have shared similar sized brains and lengthy childhoods. But it in adulthood the two groups likely had very different outlooks on life.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/09/0920_050920_neanderthal.html (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/09/0920_050920_neanderthal.html)

I thought the discovery of Neanderthal hyoid bones identical to modern human ones had put this sort of thinking out of dat. True, we don't actually have any evidence as to their ability to effectively communicate, but absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. ;)

Agrippa
Friday, May 12th, 2006, 02:07 AM
Its interesting that they say, "the old study didnt considered modern variation", which means that Neandertals are definitely in the lower fields of modern humans even in that one.

Most likely the older comparison was one with progressive racial types of today, this one might have included infantile and primitive forms too, the comment about South Africa seems to confirm this. So the primitive status of Neandertals on that - and a prolonged childhood-juvenile phase is a progressive trait in humans - is obvious.

Furthermore to conclude from the teeth alone seems to be not advisable, though like its said in the article, we have a problem if looking at the record on that. Still bone growth is much more important on that than teeth growth, especially of the wisdom teeth which vary a lot in moderns too without too much significance in all individual cases, though in an ideal one its position is clear - last one: maturity.

Angelcynn Beorn
Friday, May 12th, 2006, 04:24 PM
Its interesting that they say, "the old study didnt considered modern variation", which means that Neandertals are definitely in the lower fields of modern humans even in that one.

Most likely the older comparison was one with progressive racial types of today, this one might have included infantile and primitive forms too, the comment about South Africa seems to confirm this. So the primitive status of Neandertals on that - and a prolonged childhood-juvenile phase is a progressive trait in humans - is obvious.

Furthermore to conclude from the teeth alone seems to be not advisable, though like its said in the article, we have a problem if looking at the record on that. Still bone growth is much more important on that than teeth growth, especially of the wisdom teeth which vary a lot in moderns too without too much significance in all individual cases, though in an ideal one its position is clear - last one: maturity.

I can't see how you're reading all of this out of that study.

The study comes out and actually flat out says: "It is clear that Neandertals were growing their teeth in comparable or even longer periods of time than some of the modern human populations we studied". So obviously Neanderthals, at least as far as we can measure from their teeth alone, matured at a slower rate than many of the races which are today accepted as fully homo sapiens.
So obviously the Neanderthals, by any classification, have to be considered a progressive type, especially given the timeframe they lived in.

Agrippa
Friday, May 12th, 2006, 04:56 PM
I can't see how you're reading all of this out of that study.

The study comes out and actually flat out says: "It is clear that Neandertals were growing their teeth in comparable or even longer periods of time than some of the modern human populations we studied". So obviously Neanderthals, at least as far as we can measure from their teeth alone, matured at a slower rate than many of the races which are today accepted as fully homo sapiens.

Well, older studies said something different and again, even if, thats a comparison with some faster maturing and more infantile-primitive racial types of sapiens too.


So obviously the Neanderthals, by any classification, have to be considered a progressive type, especially given the timeframe they lived in.

For sure not, because maturation alone doesnt allow this, its just one trait. Furthermore it would make them just more advanced, for this trait alone, in comparison with certain infantile-primitive forms of modern man, still not with the progressive forms.
Time frame is not that important considering the fact that at the time of late Neandertals quite progressive human forms already existed (Cro-Magnon) which were much more advanced.