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      Surprisingly rapid growth in Neanderthals

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      Nature

      Springer Science and Business Media LLC

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          Abstract

          Life-history traits correlate closely with dental growth, so differences in dental growth within Homo can enable us to determine how somatic development has evolved and to identify developmental shifts that warrant species-level distinctions. Dental growth can be determined from the speed of enamel formation (or extension rate). We analysed the enamel extension rate in Homo antecessor (8 teeth analysed), Homo heidelbergensis (106), Homo neanderthalensis ('Neanderthals'; 146) and Upper Palaeolithic-Mesolithic Homo sapiens (100). Here we report that Upper Palaeolithic-Mesolithic H. sapiens shared an identical dental development pattern with modern humans, but that H. antecessor and H. heidelbergensis had shorter periods of dental growth. Surprisingly, Neanderthals were characterized by having the shortest period of dental growth. Because dental growth is an excellent indicator of somatic development, our results suggest that Neanderthals developed faster even than their immediate ancestor, H. heidelbergensis. Dental growth became longer and brain size increased from the Plio-Pleistocene in hominid evolution. Neanderthals, despite having a large brain, were characterized by a short period of development. This autapomorphy in growth is an evolutionary reversal, and points strongly to a specific distinction between H. sapiens and H. neanderthalensis.

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          Most cited references 17

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          The Sima de los Huesos crania (Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain). A comparative study.

          The Sima de los Huesos (Sierra de Atapuerca) cranial remains found up to and including the 1995 field season are described and compared with other fossils in order to assess their evolutionary relationships. The phenetic affinities of the Sima de los Huesos crania and a large sample of Homo fossils are investigated through principal component analyses. Metrical comparisons of the Sima de los Huesos and other European and African Middle Pleistocene fossils with Neandertals are performed using Z-scores relative to the Neandertal sample statistics. The most relevant cranial traits are metrically and morphologically analyzed and cladistically evaluated. The Sima de los Huesos crania exhibit a number of primitive traits lost in Upper Pleistocene Neandertals (especially in the braincase, but also in the facial skeleton), as well as other traits that are transitional to the Neandertal morphology (particularly in the occipital bone), and features close to what is found in Neandertals (as the supraorbital morphology and midfacial prognathism). Different combinations of primitive and derived traits (shared with Neandertals) are also displayed by the other European Middle Pleistocene fossils. In conclusion, the Sima de los Huesos sample is evolutionarily related to Neandertals as well as to the other European Middle Pleistocene fossils. In our opinion, all the European Middle Pleistocene fossils belong to the Neandertal lineage, and none can be included in an Afroeuropean common ancestor of Neandertals and modern humans.
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            Neanderthal cranial ontogeny and its implications for late hominid diversity.

            Homo neanderthalensis has a unique combination of craniofacial features that are distinct from fossil and extant 'anatomically modern' Homo sapiens (modern humans). Morphological evidence, direct isotopic dates and fossil mitochondrial DNA from three Neanderthals indicate that the Neanderthals were a separate evolutionary lineage for at least 500,000 yr. However, it is unknown when and how Neanderthal craniofacial autapomorphies (unique, derived characters) emerged during ontogeny. Here we use computerized fossil reconstruction and geometric morphometrics to show that characteristic differences in cranial and mandibular shape between Neanderthals and modern humans arose very early during development, possibly prenatally, and were maintained throughout postnatal ontogeny. Postnatal differences in cranial ontogeny between the two taxa are characterized primarily by heterochronic modifications of a common spatial pattern of development. Evidence for early ontogenetic divergence together with evolutionary stasis of taxon-specific patterns of ontogeny is consistent with separation of Neanderthals and modern humans at the species level.
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              The Krapina dental remains

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Nature
                Nature
                Springer Science and Business Media LLC
                0028-0836
                1476-4687
                April 2004
                April 2004
                : 428
                : 6986
                : 936-939
                Article
                10.1038/nature02428
                15118725
                © 2004

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