December 11, 2015 | David F. Coppedge

Face Up: We Are Less than Neanderthals

The facial differences between us and Neanderthals amount to a slight matter of bone resorption during development.

Neanderthal faces look a bit weird to us, but they could brag (were they here to weigh in on the discussion) that they are better built. There’s only a slight morphological process that separates our faces, Science Daily says. During development, we moderns have more osteoclasts (bone-absorbing cells) that resorb bone that was laid down. Neanderthals, by contrast, keep more of their facial bone. That’s why it looks a bit protruding to us. The only way we moderns could argue ours are better is by claiming, “less is more.” That’s pure subjective opinion.

The paper in Nature Communications that talks about this indicates that the processes that lead to these variations are very slight, and even appear among modern humans. In “Ontogeny of the maxilla in Neanderthals and their ancestors,” Lacruz et al. state this about earlier studies:

Differences in skull form among hominoids have been shown to arise prenatally and to be variably accentuated throughout postnatal life by divergences and differences in magnitudes among subsequent ontogenetic shape trajectories. With regard to Neanderthals and modern humans, most studies have used 3-D landmark analysis to represent ontogenetic growth. These allow vectors of ontogenetic changes in size and shape to be compared, but differences in vectors do not necessarily relate to differences in bone growth remodelling. Indeed it is possible that similar vectors could be achieved through quite different underlying bone growth activities and rates. Morphometric studies report the consequence of underlying growth processes rather than inform what these processes are. Such studies concluded that the postnatal trajectories of ontogenetic change in face shape do not differ among Neanderthal and modern humans skulls, but that there are differences in the rate of shape change. These findings are difficult to reconcile with the known differences among geographic groups of modern humans in cranial ontogenetic shape trajectories in that if modern humans differ among geographic groups, then at least some of these must also differ from Neanderthals. Another study found evidence that postnatal ontogenetic divergence exists between Neanderthal and modern human faces and this finding has been supported by a further study that compared modern human and Neanderthal mandibular ontogenetic trajectories. Thus, while the initial ontogenetic studies suggested no difference in craniofacial growth vectors of Neanderthals and modern humans, more recent works have indicated that these two groups differ and that significant differences are also found among living groups of modern humans.

The authors conclude that there are enough differences in facial development between Neanderthals and moderns to classify them separately. The differences, however, appear to result from a slight shift in the activity of osteoblasts (bone-constructing cells) and osteoclasts (bone-absorbing cells) in the facial bones during a stage of development. Since both cells exist in both varieties of humans, it amounts to a bit of regulatory change in the ratio of the cells’ activities, not something improving fitness or survival.

If anything, Neanderthals probably could chew better and sniff better than we moderns can. (Note: SH refers to specimens found in the Sima de los Huesos cave in Spain.)

The finding of similar facial bone growth remodelling activity states in the growing and developing faces of Neanderthals and SH hominins has broader implications. The SH sample and Neanderthals share a constellation of derived midfacial, dental, mandibular and glenoid cavity features that participate in a functional masticatory complex. Both groups also share large floors of the nasal cavity and large palatal roofs. To generate the expanded nasal cavity in the SH hominins and Neanderthals, the nasal capsule is vertically expanded and an increased rate of remodelling of the nasal and oral components of the palate (greater resorption on the nasal floor and increased deposition on the oral lamina of the palate) likely increases downward and forward drift of this structure, resulting in larger nasopharyngeal airways earlier in development relative to H. sapiens. The forwardly placed mid face and nasal aperture coupled with an antero-inferior growth vector of the face may well have resulted in relatively more anterior positioning of prosthion and the tooth row en bloc with respect to the maxillary tuberosity, thus also generating the retromolar space characteristic of Neanderthals.

Is this a possible explanation for the trouble moderns have with third molars (wisdom teeth)? Maybe the roomier Neanderthal jaw required fewer visits to the orthodontist.

Darwin skeptics may take note that the authors stated as their aim, “Findings from this analysis are interpreted within developmental and evolutionary contexts.”  Lacruz drops hints in Science Daily about his bias to want to classify Neanderthals as “different” from us, but then admits moderns have a lot of variety, too:

We always considered Neanderthals to be a very different category of hominin,” said Lacruz. “But in fact they share with older African hominins a similar facial growth pattern. It’s actually humans who are developmentally derived, meaning that humans deviated from the ancestral pattern. In that sense, the face that is unique is the modern human face, and the next phase of research is to identify how and when modern humans acquired their facial-growth development plan.”

Moreover, Lacruz says, understanding the process of facial ontogeny can help explain the variation in facial size and shape among modern humans.

The extra bone in their faces probably would have made Neanderthals more resistant to injury in their boxing matches.

Evolutionists are straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel here. Neanderthals were strong, tall, brainy, intelligent, and skillful. They were probably the Corvettes of their day instead of the Yugos like us. The differences are so slight as to be meaningless in Darwinian terms. What’s more fit, the crow or the raven? Both are equally good. Good grief, evolutionists: stop the historical racism and tell us where the important things came from: osteoblasts, osteoclasts, the skeleton, the heart, the kidneys, the lungs, the liver, the pancreas, ATP synthase, digestion, sex, the nervous system, the immune system, the neuroendocrine system, muscles, hands, arms, upright posture, the brain, intelligence, language, aesthetics, the soul …ad infinitum.

Notice, too, that evolutionists believe Neanderthals were successful for over 200,000 years independently, yet when encountering modern humans after all that time, were able to intermarry and have fertile offspring. Does that make any sense? It’s a tall tale, a whopper! It’s almost as bad as the one about fully human people inhabiting earth for half a million years but never learning to ride a horse. Why aren’t we laughing about this? This isn’t science; it’s a cult. Looking at the world’s leading “science” journal giving this respectable coverage, you see what happens when a cult gains power over reasonable people.


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  • mjazz says:

    I wonder what would happen if we took some Neanderthal skulls and brought them to the people who reconstruct faces from skulls, as in detective work? Especially if we didn’t tell them they were Neanderthals, I would be curious to see what they would like like. Or are the differences too obvious?

  • John C says:

    Dear MJazz,
    It has already been done! Google “Neanderthal Reconstruction” and be prepared for amazement. They look like…like…my neighbor?

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