If a Neanderthal were to sit down next to us on the underground, we would probably first notice his receding forehead, prominent brow ridges and projecting, chinless face.
Reconstruction of a Neanderthal child from the Musee National de Prehistoire
in Les Eyzies de Tayac, France [Credit: Don Hitchcock]
Only on closer inspection would we notice his wider and thicker body. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig have now investigated whether the differences in physique between Neanderthals and modern humans are genetic or caused by differences in lifestyle. Their analysis of two well-preserved skeletons of Neanderthal neonates shows that Neanderthals’ wide bodies and robust bones were formed by birth.