Scientists taking advantage of 3D-modeling technology have been recreating “crash test” versions of Neanderthal skulls. Thanks to this, they now think they can explain why this extinct species of human beings had such a large nose.
The dominant facial structures of Neanderthals have long been a subject of interest and debate. The protruding brow ridge, the forward thrusting nose, and the weak chin would have made these people instantly recognizable as a different species of man.
Why Did the Neanderthals Have Such Big Noses
But why the difference? An obvious possible explanation is the bitter cold Ice Age environment they had learned to survive within for tens of thousands of years. That a large nose would be an advantage in breathing cold, dry air efficiently has been a popular suggestion.
But now it seems their big noses were no better at handling cold than our own.
Although the Neanderthal nose was found to be an efficient processor of cold air, scientists were surprised to discover that our smaller, modern-day human noses can do just as well. In some cases, these smaller noses might do even better than Neanderthals in frigid conditions.
Scientists also made a comparison with an early extinct human species, the Homo heidelbergensis. Here, the Neanderthal nose was clearly superior for cold-air breathing vis-à-vis our extinct relative.
So why did Neanderthal need those big noses? Further tests may have provided the best possible explanation. It turns out that the wide nostrils of Neanderthal made them world champion breathers.
That is, the sheer amount of oxygen they could move in and out of their lungs scored off the charts. Their breathing was easily twice as powerful as that of the Home sapiens sapiens.
This superior ability to oxygenate their bodies meant that Neanderthal would have had enormous stamina. This would have especially contributed to their ability to run over long distances, and also for long periods of time. It would have been helpful in hunting, as well as in keeping constantly active to stay warm in extreme cold.
“The take-home message from this is that the distinctive, projecting Neanderthal face is an adaptation linked with an extreme, high-energy lifestyle,” stated a researcher involved in the study.
Study findings were released in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
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