Neanderthal children may have had their teeth cut earlier than modern humans | science and technology news

New research sheds light on the differences between how humans and Neanderthal infants developed after birth.

Scientists at the University of Kent’s School of Anthropology believe that modern human children may have evolved over a much longer and slower period compared to the now-extinct species or human subspecies.

Using the latest technology to examine the teeth of Neanderthals that lived 120,000 years ago, researchers have found evidence that they grew early.

Neanderthals are an extinct subspecies of humans
picture:
Neanderthals are an extinct species or subspecies of humans

Anthropologists know very little about what life was like for Neanderthal infants in the months immediately before they were born.

But the new study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, which is based on the deciduous teeth of three Neanderthals, offers some insights.

Milk teeth are useful to scientists because they start forming before an infant is born and then continue to grow as part of a growing organism.

Because of the way the body lays down layers of enamel, milk teeth effectively keep a record of their growth which keeps the fossils perfectly preserved.

Dr. Alicia Nova explained: “We used modern non-destructive tissues based on synchrotron radiation to examine the inside of deciduous teeth. We were able to determine the exact moment when a Neanderthal was born.”

Her colleague Dr. Patrick Mahoney added: “Our study revealed that these Neanderthals had an accelerated pattern of tooth development compared to the modern human child. This likely enabled them to process more demanding complementary foods at an earlier age compared to the modern human child.”

These findings are consistent with other studies that suggested that Neanderthals had high rates of brain growth by their second year, which may have resulted in significant energy costs.

According to Kent’s team, these costs “could have been offset for Neanderthal children by their ability to process more demanding complementary foods at a relatively young age, thereby providing increased energy for the rapid brain development required.”

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