Study: Neanderthals faced risks, but so did our ancestors

November 14, 2018 by Malcolm Ritter
Neanderthals are commonly thought to have relied on dangerous close range hunting techniques, using non-projectile weapons like the thrusting spears depicted here. Credit: Gleiver Prieto & Katerina Harvati

Life as a Neanderthal was no picnic, but a new analysis says it was no more dangerous than what our own species faced in ancient times.

That challenges what the authors call the prevailing view of our evolutionary cousins, that they lived risky, stressful lives. Some studies have suggested they had high rates, which have been blamed on things like social violence, attacks by carnivores, a hunting style that required getting close to large prey, and the hazards of extensive travel in environments full of snow and ice.

While it's true that their lives were probably riskier than those of people in today's industrial societies, the vastly different living conditions of those two groups mean comparing them isn't really appropriate, said Katerina Harvati of the University of Tuebingen in Germany.

A better question is whether Neanderthals faced more danger than our species did when we shared similar environments and comparable lifestyles of mobile hunter-gatherers, she and study co-authors say in a paper released Wednesday by the journal Nature.

To study that, they focused on skull injuries. They reviewed prior studies of fossils from western Eurasia that ranged from about 80,000 to 20,000 years old. In all they assessed data on 295 skull samples from 114 individual Neanderthals, and 541 skull samples from 90 individuals of our own species, Homo sapiens.

Neanderthal (left) and modern human skeleton. Neanderthals have commonly be considered to show high incidences of trauma compared to modern humans. Credit: Ian Tattersall

Injury rates turned out to be about the same in both species.

That questions the idea that the behavior of Neanderthals created particularly high levels of danger, Marta Mirazon Lahr of Cambridge University wrote in an accompanying commentary.

But the new study is not the final word on Neanderthal trauma, she wrote. It didn't include injuries other than to the . And scientists still have plenty of work to do in seeking the likely cause of injuries and evidence of care for the injured, which could give insights into the behavior of both Neanderthals and ancient members of our , she wrote.

Explore further: Cold, dry climate shifts linked to Neanderthal disappearance

More information: Judith Beier et al. Similar cranial trauma prevalence among Neanderthals and Upper Palaeolithic modern humans, Nature (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41586-018-0696-8

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rderkis
5 / 5 (3) Nov 14, 2018
That title is silly "Study: Neanderthals faced risks, but so did our ancestors". We have Neanderthal DNA in our genes. That makes Neanderthals at least partly our ancestors. Which makes the title nonsense.
rrrander
1 / 5 (4) Nov 15, 2018
That title is silly "Study: Neanderthals faced risks, but so did our ancestors". We have Neanderthal DNA in our genes. That makes Neanderthals at least partly our ancestors. Which makes the title nonsense.


Look at the skeletons. We sure aren't Neanderthals. They died out because they were stupid, but they might have made good football players.
rderkis
5 / 5 (5) Nov 15, 2018
So you are denying all the studies by world renowned scientist that say we have some neanderthal DNA in us?
rrwillsj
not rated yet Nov 15, 2018
and mander, you are ignoring that modern, American style football players were originally as intelligent as everyone else. On a scale of trumpstupid to trumpvoteraverage to antifascistresistersmart.

Just as with boxers and cage-fighters and other sports and occupations with high incidents of head injuries. The deterioration in intellect can be measured from the severity of their head traumas.

In addition to all the steroids and other chemistry fed them since childhood to bulk them up to fighting trim.

Oh? You going to pretend you didn't just look away from the "extras" added to those energy drinks the school coaches were giving the players? Since elementary sports.

Under constant pressure from school administrators /elected school boards /voters ro produce winning teams and feed the hulks into the high school /collegiate /professional systems.

The public wants to enjoy watching some one else suffer. While consuming huge quantities of consumer products.
rderkis
5 / 5 (1) Nov 15, 2018
Quote "The public wants to enjoy watching some one else suffer."
This coming from a person that enjoys watching the late night comedians bullying and humiliating others to make themselves rich and famous.

And as far as sports athletes, you are profiling them based mainly on the entertainment industry's fictional movies.
Surveillance_Egg_Unit
3 / 5 (2) Nov 15, 2018
That title is silly "Study: Neanderthals faced risks, but so did our ancestors". We have Neanderthal DNA in our genes. That makes Neanderthals at least partly our ancestors. Which makes the title nonsense.
says rderkis

Studies tell us that Caucasoids (White people) mated with Neanderthalensis, which is the reason why White people have Neandertal DNA, whereas Black Africans do not.
My recent DNA test results tell me that my kinfolk and I have Neandertal DNA. So I looked up "Caucasoid". It says:

Caucasoid | ˈkôkəˌsoid |
adjective dated
relating to the Caucasian division of humankind.
USAGE
The term Caucasoid belongs to a set of terms introduced by 19th-century anthropologists attempting to categorize human races. Such terms are associated with outdated notions of racial types, and so are now potentially offensive and best avoided. See usage at Mongoloid.

However, the term "Caucasian" seems not offensive at all and is in use much more often.
torbjorn_b_g_larsson
1 / 5 (1) Nov 16, 2018
That title is silly "Study: Neanderthals faced risks, but so did our ancestors". We have Neanderthal DNA in our genes. That makes Neanderthals at least partly our ancestors. Which makes the title nonsense.
says rderkis

Studies tell us that [racist claims].


No, they do not. First off, we are all Africans, including Neanderthals and Denisovans and the 4th ancestor ghost lineage (likely the older human Erectus), or at least the latter's ancestors. And all of the extant humans have Neanderthal alleles except that the fraction dives to imperceptible levels in some populations close to the southern tip of Africa.

It is possible that Africans, Neanderthals and Denisovans constituted subspecies aka "races" in older biological animal nomenclature, because the allele fraction can possibly be explained with zero breeding barriers; even fossil human DNA specialist Svante Pääbo seems to have swung on that in a prize acceptance speech earlier this year.
torbjorn_b_g_larsson
1 / 5 (1) Nov 16, 2018
[ctd] And FWIW on the test results: Many public DNA tests seems to look for markers instead of whole genome sequencing, which is understandable since the latter test results are complex to interpret. The marker set can be divided in a chosen number of clusters.

Since principal component analysis of the genome show smooth gradients over the continents that maps [sic!] to geographical maps - due to breeding patterns of choosing partners locally - these clusters are typically chosen as continental AFAIK (i,e, African, European ["Caucasoid"], Asian, Australian et cetera).

This outcome has primarily nothing to do with ancient gene flows (though the Neanderthal marker frequency obviously has) as much as the last few generations marriage customs. ("Hey, my next door cousins looks familiar, but that girl/guy from the next village over...") You get what you pay for.

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