The nose knows whether or not Neanderthals are members of our own species. Turns out the differences in the Neanderthal nose compared to that of modern day humans could be substantial enough to consider Neanderthals a separate species. New research into the comparison and contrast of noses suggests also that Neanderthals did not die off as a result of poor adaptation to cold climates, as many have assumed.
Researchers led by Samuel Marquez at the SUNY Downstate Medical Center examined the nasal complex of Neanderthals and found that the anatomy was more similar to modern humans of temperate climates. Past comparisons have tended to be between Neanderthals and modern humans of cold climates such as the Inuit and Europeans. Differences found in these classical comparisons led experts to speculate that the reason Neanderthals died off was because they were too poorly adapted to cold climates, compared with the modern, cold-adapted humans.
In comparing Neanderthal fossils to an averaged reference skull of modern humans, Marquez and colleagues found a collection of features in the Neanderthal specimens not present in modern humans.
By considering a mosaic of features rather than individual ones, the results of the comparison suggest that upper respiratory systems of Neanderthals are different enough from modern humans to consider them as separate species from rather than as subspecies of Homo sapiens.
The report detailing the study were published in the November issue of The Anatomical Record.