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Home / Science / New research shows that Neanderthal children grow up and wean like modern humans

New research shows that Neanderthal children grow up and wean like modern humans



Like us, Neanderthals introduce solid foods to infants between 5 and 6 months old, a new study published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences said.

Through both geochemical and histological analyzes of Neanderthal children’s three baby teeth, the researchers shed more light on the weaning rate and growth rate of Neanderthal children. The kids live in a small area of ​​northeastern Italy 70,000 to 45,000 years ago.

Scientists argue that Neanderthal children’s energy needs are similar to human needs. Actually, Neanderthals and human babies may have similar weight and similar pregnancy history.

Co-author Stefano Benazzi, professor of physical anthropology at University College, these findings break the hypothesis that longer lactation in Neanderthals causes infertility after long birth. more for Bologna mothers in Italy, told CNN.

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“In this hypothesis, Homo sapiens, those with a shorter breastfeeding period, could have a larger, effectively larger population than the Neanderthals,” Benazzi explained.

“This study demonstrates how Neanderthals and Homo people are The sapiens raised their children, he said, similarly, so this theory must be disproved, “he said.” We need to find the explanation somewhere else. “

Teeth are like trees

Baby teeth in the Neanderthal period Found in caves between the provinces of Vicenza and Verona in northeastern Italy. The teeth belong to three separate children, which are lost naturally as part of growing up, according to the scientists.

Here are 3D reconstructions of the three Neanderthal baby teeth analyzed in the study.  Pictured is (from left) the tooth found in the Fumane Cave;  what is found in the Broion Cave;  and the tooth found in the cave De Nadale.

Just like a tree trunk has growth rings with each year of its life, teeth have growth lines, which form every day until enamel is fully developed, the researchers explained.

“It’s a fitting comparison,” said co-author Federico Lugli, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Cultural Heritage at the University of Bologna. “These lines can be studied in a noninvasive way technically or through histology, cutting thin parts of the teeth. “

Study co-author Stefano Benazzi, professor at the University of Bologna, is shown here studying Neanderthal remains.

Combined with chemical analysis that looked at strontium concentrations in teeth, information from these growth pathways provided important information on weaning times in our evolutionary cousins.

To validate their data, scientists also Compare information from contemporary children’s primary teeth with recorded eating and weaning histories with their findings on the weaning process of Neanderthal children.

What baby teeth tell us about Neanderthal mothers

Even if teething occurs later in a newborn’s life, Teeth form before birth and the growth lines associated with the time of birth have a specific, recognizable shape, says Benazzi.

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That also allows scientists to expand the scope of research from children to their mothers.

“Since baby teeth are mostly formed in the uterus, what we see about the chemistry in these samples is partly related to their mother’s behavior and eating habits,” Lugli explains.

Building on evidence from previous studies, Lugli explained that the Neanderthal diet was tested for high protein content.

It’s possible that pre-chewed meat is one of the solid foods used when weaning Neanderthal children, says Lugli, but this theory will need to be studied further.

What baby teeth tell us about Neanderthal mobility

The scientists also used strontium isotope analysis to relate the chemical composition of Neanderthal human milk teeth to archaeological rodent teeth found in the same geographical context.

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This allowed the team to confirm that the Neanderthals were not as mobile as previously thought.

A fourth baby tooth analyzed in research from a modern Neolithic man above did not match the local fauna, the scientists explained, suggesting that it is not Like the Neanderthals, the Old Neolithic modern people actually moved more.

Breastfeeding: Physiology and culture

How long to breastfeed is a question that many new mothers struggle today.

In the view of the scientists, decisions about when to stop breastfeeding are influenced by cultural factors, but ultimately weaning is a physiological problem.

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“Weaning is a complicated part of the life of both a child and a mother,” explains Lugli.

At about 6 months, Lugli argues, children have a need for energy, requiring an external source of nutrients for them to grow.

Also, once other foods are included, mothers can spend less energy producing milk. “Breast milk production requires a great physiological contribution from the mothers’ bodies,” says Lugli.


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