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Palaeontology

Neanderthal brains developed slower than ours

September 24, 2017 | Comment icon 10 comments



The find has lifted the lid on Neanderthal brain development. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 2.0 Tim Evanson
The skeleton of a young Neanderthal has revealed that our brains did not develop at the same rate.
The find casts doubt on the idea that modern humans are the only species whose brains develop relatively slowly and also adds evidence to suggest that, contrary to how they are often portrayed, Neanderthals were not a primitive, brutish species at all.

Discovered at the 49,000-year-old site of El Sidron in Spain, the well-preserved fossil remains were those of a seven-year-old boy whose brain was around 87.5% the size of an adult's when he died.
By contrast, a human child of the same age has a brain 95% the size of an adult's.

This slow brain development, which is comparable to our own, indicates that Neanderthals were extremely similar to modern humans in terms of intelligence and cognitive ability.

"Neanderthals have a larger brain and larger body and so it is logical to think that the brain of the Neanderthal continues to grow for a little longer to allow their brains and bodies to get to their adult size," said Professor Antonio Rosas of the Museum of Natural Sciences in Madrid .

Source: BBC News | Comments (10)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Eldorado 5 years ago
"Discerning the differences and similarities in growth patterns between Neanderthals and modern humans helps us better define our own history. Modern humans and Neanderthals emerged from a common recent ancestor, and this is manifested in a similar overall growth rate," explains CSIC researcher, Antonio Rosas, from Spain's National Natural Science Museum (MNCN). As fellow CSIC researcher Luis Ríos highlights, "Applying paediatric growth assessment methods, this Neanderthal child is no different to a modern-day child." The pattern of vertebral maturation and brain growth, as well as energy cons... [More]
Comment icon #2 Posted by Trihalo42 5 years ago
The human brain doesn't fully develop until the mid-twenties. The last thing to fully develop is the prefrontal cortex, responsible for reason and impulse control. Teenagers = Neanderthals?
Comment icon #3 Posted by Parsec 5 years ago
Pretty interesting article.    Given the title on UM homepage, I was afraid it was one of those publications trying to paint Neanderthals as "more stupid" than us ("their brain grew slower than our, thus they were dumber").  Hopefully it is not.    I don't get why some people are so scared of the idea that Neanderthals could have been exactly like us, if not more intelligent and more developed/sophisticated.  I thought anthropocentrism died centuries ago. 
Comment icon #4 Posted by Parsec 5 years ago
Why are you drawing that comparison?  The article doesn't say they didn't develop the prefrontal cortex. 
Comment icon #5 Posted by Nostrodumbass 5 years ago
Can these scientists claim this from one skeleton? Maybe he dropped out of school and played video games all day. Games like GTA (Grand theft Antelope), COD (Call of Dysentery), Farcry Primal (literal edition), WOW (World of What i'm experiencing every day), Minecraft (Hit hard things with your fist edition), Don't Starve, Don't Starve Together etc.
Comment icon #6 Posted by MisterMan 5 years ago
What?  Neanderthals were similar to modern humans?  Next they'll be finding Neanderthal DNA in modern humans.  Oh, wait.
Comment icon #7 Posted by kobolds 5 years ago
I think it's too early to make such claim with only few fossil
Comment icon #8 Posted by glorybebe 5 years ago
Yes they have.  Mostly in the Northern European countries.  According to one study I read red hair is a trait of Neanderthal DNA.
Comment icon #9 Posted by Awhis 4 years ago
I am part Neanderthal. I have a huge 3 inch occipital bun and I am extremely hairy. Plus I am very strong I can leg press 2000 lbs. I have never broken a bone even when I fell 30 ft from a building!
Comment icon #10 Posted by DanL 4 years ago
The truth is that if we discovered the Neanderthal now it would probably be classified as almost more of a race of Homo Sapiens than a seperate species. The problem was that the first skeleton remains of a neanderthal were massively misinterpreted. He was seen as a stoop shouldered bent apish sort of being. We now know that this specimen was actually an old man suffering with terrible arthritis and injuries and not representative of them as a whole. A Neanderthal could walk down the street in any city in the world and nobody would doubt his humanity. They were so close that they obviously had ... [More]


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