Analysis of the skeleton of a Neanderthal boy revealed that the primitive relative of modern humans grew much like modern kids do, providing another evidence that the now extinct human species were similar to us.
Skeleton Of 7-Year Old Neanderthal
In a new study, Antonio Rosas, from the National Museum of Natural Sciences in Madrid, and colleagues analyzed the 49,000-year-old skeleton found in the archeological site of El Sidron in Northern Spain to determine how children from the ancient species of humans developed.
Christopher Dean, from the University College London, determined the age of the child by counting the daily growth lines in slices of one of the molars. The results revealed that the child was between 7 and 8 years old at the time of death.
Growth Similar To That Of A Modern Human Child
The researchers measured the maturation of the skull, teeth, elbow, spine, hand, wrist, and knee to assess the development of the child, who is believed to be a boy based on the robustness of the bones. Analysis of computerized tomography scans showed that the bones exhibit overall growth that researchers said is similar to that of a modern human child.
The child was still growing at the time of his death. His brain was about 87.5 percent the size of an adult Neanderthal brain. In comparison, a modern human boy is expected to have a brain weight equivalent to about 95 percent of an adult's by the same age.
The researchers think that instead of simply outpacing contemporary people in brain growth, these primitive people possibly grew up over a longer period of time.
"Growth and development in this juvenile Neandertal fit the typical features of human ontogeny, where there is slow somatic growth between weaning and puberty that may offset the cost of growing a large brain," the researchers wrote in their study, which was published in the journal Science on Sept. 22.
"A slower pace of growth provides an opportunity for shifts in both the rate and timing of brain growth."
Subtle Differences In Growth Pattern And Development
The vertebrate revealed that the center of the child's spine had not yet fused unlike those of contemporary human children of the same age. These same bones usually fuse in modern humans between 4 and 6 years old.
"Neandertals and modern humans are following the same growth pattern, but we have detected some subtle differences," Rosas said.