Science Times - Neanderthals Best Adjusted to Cold, Researchers Tell Us Why
(Photo : Yuliya S. on Wikimedia Commons) Neanderthals are known to have frequently used caves for their shelters, and built fires not just for cooking but also for warmth.

Researchers recently found that Neanderthals were best adjusted to cold climates. This is contrary to the usual occurrence when the northern hemisphere wiggles out from the chilling gasp of winter, and the majority of humans dwelling there flock outdoors to welcome the developing warm climate.

A RealClear report said that while it remains unknown what one of the closest relatives of Homo sapiens would think of today's increasing temperatures, anthropologists are sure that Neanderthals were fairly adjusted to climates. Remarkably well, in fact.

In their study, a team of anthropologists wrote that it is widely accepted that Neanderthals seem to be the most cold-adjusted among the known fossil hominin groups.

The research team, comprised of Notre Dame biological anthropologist Dr. Cara Ocobock, California State University Dominguez Hills paleontologist Dor. Sarah Lacy, and Notre Dame biological anthropologist PhD candidate Alexandra Niclou, dove into the published study to merge the present state of knowledge about Neanderthal cold adaptations.

ALSO READ: Human Evolution Evidently Taking Place Among Southeast Asian Free Divers


Science Times - Neanderthals Best Adjusted to Cold, Researchers Tell Us Why
(Photo: Yuliya S. on Wikimedia Commons)
Neanderthals are known to have frequently used caves for their shelters and built fires not just for cooking but also for warmth.

Neanderthals' Unique Characteristics

The researchers found that Neanderthals exhibit potentially unique characteristics that allowed them to survive and thrive during cold and glacial climates.

Considering that, as the Homo sapiens spent more time on this planet, specifically in Africa around the equator, Neanderthals inhabited further north, primarily in what the report described as dry, and even glacial climates, as far as northern France, through mountainous Uzbekistan and southern Siberia.

In these frequently harsh environs, there were hundreds of thousands of years to morphologically, behaviorally and physiologically adjust.

The morphological adaptations of Neanderthals to cold are probably the most apparent, as researchers can study their bones and conclude about their bodies with a fair level of certainty.

For instance, the Neanderthals were characterized to have wide trunks and shortened limbs compared to other hominins, which established a comparatively high body volume with a lower surface area.

This, the authors explained in their study entitled "Between a rock and a cold place: Neanderthal biocultural cold adaptations," published in Evolutionary Anthropology, would have maximized potential production of metabolic heat while heat loss is minimized to the environment.

Generally Large Noses

In their work, the researchers described the Neanderthals to have tall, broad, and most of all, generally large noses.

Ocobock, together with her colleagues, explained that this specific nasal shape is regarded as adaptive, as a tall, thin passageway increases the mucosal surface area, offering the greater capability of warming and moistening cold-dry air usual of cold climates.

When it comes to morphology, Neanderthals had large skeletons, insinuating extraordinary muscle mass. Muscle is producing more heat compared to fatty tissue, although it is more energetically costly.

Power Plants Proficient at Yielding Heat for Warmth

Certainly, hunting, a related report from the Human Journey specified, was a physically demanding activity for Neanderthals that involves sprinting, throwing, and bringing heavy loads.

All of this physical activity, paired with a cooler climate would likely have prompted Neanderthal to produce substantial stores of brown fat, which has a lot more mitochondria compared to the usual white fat.

Essentially these so-called cellular 'power plants' are proficient at yielding heat for warmth. While the morphological and physical adjustments of Neanderthals can be reasoned according to fossil and archeological evidence, their behavioral adaptations are said to be more of a mystery.

There are also known to have frequently used caves for their shelters and built fires not just for cooking but also for warmth.

More difficult to discern, the report specified, are the social and cultural systems Neanderthals adopted to survive in colder climates.

Related information about Neanderthals is shown on KPIX CBS's YouTube video below:

RELATED ARTICLE: 100,000-Year-Old Fossilized Footprints Shows Similarity Between Neanderthal and Modern Children

Check out more news and information on Human Evolution on Science Times.