Neanderthals were hunter-gatherers who lived in western Eurasia for more than 200,000 years during the glacial and interglacial period until they died extinct about 40,000 years ago. Although some of the anatomical regions of these extinct people are well-known, others, such as the back and ribs, are less known because these elements are fragile and not well preserved in the fossil record. In 1983, on the site of Kebar (Mount Carmel, Israel), a partial neanderthal skeleton (known officially as Kebar 2, and the nickname "Moshe") was found belonging to a young Neanderthal individual who died about 60,000 years ago. While this skeleton does not preserve the skull, since some time after the funeral, the skull was removed, probably as a result of the funeral ritual. However, all the spines and ribs are preserved, and these are other fragile anatomical regions, such as the pelvis or hipoid bone (a bone on the neck to which some muscles of the tongue are attached). So, the skeleton that keeps the most complete torso in the fossil record.
New methods of statistical and virtual reconstruction enabled researchers to extract new information, which was just published in a prestigious magazine Nature of communication.
For more than 150 years, remains of Neanderthals have been found in many locations in Europe and Western Asia (including the Middle East), and the morphology of that part of this type of man has been debated since 1856, when the first ribs belonging to this human group were found . Over the past decade, virtual reconstructions have become a new tool that is increasingly being used in fossil research. This methodology is particularly useful in fragile fossils, such as spines and ribs forming the chest. Nearly two years ago, the same research team created a reconstruction of the neanderthal spine; shows the canned Kebra 2 spine that shows less pronounced curvature in these people compared to Homo sapiens. The team's work, published in the book "Human Palaeontology and prehistory", pointed to the fear of a spine of modern humans.
For this virtual chest model, the researchers also used direct observations of the Kebar 2 skeleton, currently located at the University of Tel Aviv, and CT (computerized axial tomography) scanning of the spines, ribs and pelvic bones. When all the anatomical elements were assembled, virtual reconstruction was done using 3D software specially designed for this purpose. "It was the right thing to do," said Alon Barash of Bar Ilan University in Israel. "We had to scan each spit and individual rib fragments individually, and then re-assemble them in virtual 3D."
"In the reconstruction process, it had to be practically" reduced "and rearranged some of the parts that showed deformation, and mirrored the ribs that were best preserved to replace poorly preserved on the other side," said Asier Gomez-Olivencia, Ikerbaske researcher at University of Basque Country.
"The differences between Neanderthal and modern man's chest are striking," said Daniel Garcia-Martinez and Markus Bastir, researchers at the National Museum of Natural Sciences (MNCN-CSIC) and coauthors. "Neanderthal spine is more inside the chest than the ribs, which provides more stability, and the chest is also expanding in the lower part," added Mikel Arlegi (UPV / EHU).
"The wider lower Neanderthal torus and the horizontal orientation of the ribs, as demonstrated in its reconstruction, suggest that Neanderthals rely more on the breathing diaphragm," said Ella Alongside Academic College Ono. "Modern people rely on the diaphragm and the expansion of the cages of fish. Here we can see how new technologies and methodologies in the study of fossil remains provide new information for understanding the extinct species."
This new information is in line with recent Neanderthal lung capacity works published by two coauthors of this study, Markus Bastir and Daniel Garcia-Martinez (Virtual Anthropological Laboratory, MNCN), in which they support the presence of higher lung capacity in neandertals).
Patricia Kramer of the University of Washington summarizes all of this: "This is a culmination of 15 years of neanderthal torso research, hoping that future genetic analyzes will provide additional indications of Neanderthal respiratory physiology."
This work was carried out by an international group of researchers from Ikerbaske, UPV / EHU University of the Basque Country, Universite de Bordeauk, Ono Academic College, Tel Aviv University, Washington University, Bar Ilan University and the National Museum of Natural Sciences (NMNC) in Madrid.
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