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Neanderthal children grew up and weaned similarly to modern humans



Neanderthal children grow up and wean the same way we do

Analysis of 3D reconstructions of three baby teeth of nearsighted people. Credit: Federico Lugli

Neanderthals behaved similarly to modern humans in raising their children, having a growth rate similar to Homo sapiens.


Thanks to a combination of geochemical and histological analyzes of three Neanderthal baby teeth, the researchers were able to determine their growth rate and weaning initiation time. These teeth belonged to three different Neanderthal children who lived 70,000 to 45,000 years ago in a small area in Northeast Italy.

Teeth develop and record information as growth lines ̵

1; similar to tree rings – that can be read through histological techniques. Combining such information with chemical data obtained with a laser mass spectrometer – specifically strontium concentrations – scientists could show that these Neanderthals included solid food in their diets. children at about 5-6 months old.

Not culture, but physiology

Alessia Nava (University of Kent, UK), the first co-author of the work, said, “The initiation of weaning is more about physiology than cultural factors. In fact, in humans In modern times, the first weaning occurs at about 6 months of age when a child needs a more energetic food supply that is shared by very different cultures and societies. know that Neanderthals also started weaning their babies when modern humans did. “

“In particular, compared to other primates,” Federico Lugli (University of Bologna), the first co-author of the work, said, “it is conceivable that the high energy needs of the human brain are increasing. Increased stimulation of the early introduction of solid foods in the children’s diet. ”

The Neanderthals are our closest cousins ​​in the evolutionary tree of mankind. However, their rate of development and early metabolic limitations are still heavily debated in the scientific literature.

Stefano Benazzi (University of Bologna), senior co-author, said, “The results of this study imply similar energy needs in the neonatal period and close rates of development between Homo sapiens and humans. Taken together, these factors may suggest that Neanderthal infants are of the same weight as modern human infants, suggesting a history of pregnancy with similar abilities and pregnancy early life, and the interval between births is likely to be shorter. ”

  • Just like us - Neanderthal kids grow up and wean like we do

    Perhaps a Neanderthal child lost this tooth 40,000 to 70,000 years ago when their permanent teeth appeared. Credit: Project ERC SUCCESS, University of Bologna, Italy

  • Just like us - Neanderthal kids grow up and wean like we do

    Researchers at Goethe University cut paper-thin slices from Neanderthal baby teeth. The teeth are then reassembled and recreated Image: Luca Bondioli and Alessia Nava, Rome, Italy

Lovely house

The three baby teeth analyzed in this study were found in a confined area in Northeast Italy, between the current provinces of Vicenza and Verona: in the Broion Cave, in the Fumane Cave and in the De Nadale Cave. In addition to their initial diet and growth, the scientists also gathered data on the mobility in the region of these Neanderthals using time-resolved strontium isotope analysis. time.

Wolfgang Müller (Goethe University Frankfurt), senior co-author said: “They are less portable than previously suggested by other scholars. “The strontium isotope signature recorded on their teeth suggests that, in fact, they spent most of their time near home: this reflects a very modern mental stereotype and the ability to utilize local resources. thoughtful way. ”

Marco Peresani (Ferrara University), co-authored and responsible for the findings from archaeological excavations at the De Nadale and Fumane sites.

This research adds a new piece to puzzling photographs of Neanderthal, a human very close to us but still very mysterious. Specifically, the researchers ruled out that the small population size of Neanderthals, derived from previous genetic analyzes, was due to differences in weaning age and other biocultural factors leading to their destruction.

This will be further explored within the framework of the ERC SUCCESS project (Early Migration of Homo sapiens in Southern Europe – Understanding the biological cultural processes that determine our uniqueness), by Stefano Benazzi at Head of the University of Bologna.


The 48,000-year-old tooth belonged to one of the last Neanderthals in Northern Italy


More information:
Nava et al., Early Neanderthals. PNAS (Year 2020). DOI: 10.1073 / pnas.2011765117. dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2011765117

Provided by Bologna University

Quote: Neanderthal children raised and weaned in the same way as modern humans (2020, November 2) accessed November 2, 2020 from https://phys.org/news/2020-11-neanderthal- children-grew-weaned-similarly.html

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