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Neanderthal Noses Prove They Were NOT a Sub-Species of Humans

Nov 19, 2014 01:08 PM EST

In a shocking new study, Neanderthal noses revealed that our ancient relatives were in fact not a sub-species of modern humans, distinctly separate in their own right.

Neanderthals may have started mating with humans 50,000 years ago, as a recent related study showed, but that doesn't mean they were necessarily hooking up with their own kind.

Researchers have been analyzing Neanderthal's shnozzes for the better part of a century and a half now, but now a team led by SUNY Downstate Medical Center shows that they've been going about it all wrong. In the past, experts approached the matter assuming Neanderthal nasal dimensions were comparable to those of modern humans, such as the Inuit and modern Europeans, whose nasal complexes are adapted to cold and temperate climates.

However, according to the new study, the upper respiratory tracts of this extinct group functioned via a different set of rules.

"The strength of this new research lies in its taking the totality of the Neanderthal nasal complex into account, rather than looking at a single feature. By looking at the complete morphological pattern, we can conclude that Neanderthals are our close relatives, but they are not us," researcher Jeffrey T. Laitman said in a statement.

Neanderthals exhibited a mosaic of unique features not found among any population of Homo sapiens, resulting in distinguished noses.

Using advanced analyzing techniques, the research team compared the nasal region of diverse modern human population groups with fossil evidence from long-gone Neanderthals. They found that the external nasal aperture of the Neanderthals is similar to those found in some modern humans, but their midfacial prognathism, or protrusion of the midface, is drastically different.

That key difference, among a host of others, suggests to scientists that Neanderthals evolved separately from humans. Researchers hope that with this revelation, scientists can finally start recognizing these ancient people as one of a kind.

The findings were published in the journal The Anatomical Record.

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