“It may sound far-fetched, but when we, for the first time, reconstructed the Eustachian tubes of Neanderthals, we discovered that they are remarkably similar to those of human infants,” said coinvestigator and Downstate Health Sciences University Associate Professor Samuel Márquez, PhD, “Middle ear infections are nearly ubiquitous among infants because the flat angle of an infant’s Eustachian tubes is prone to retain the otitis media bacteria that cause these infections — the same flat angle we found in Neanderthals.”
In this age of antibiotics, these infections are easy to treat and relatively benign for human babies. Additionally, around age 5, the Eustachian tubes in human children lengthen and the angle becomes more acute, allowing the ear to drain, all but eliminating these recurring infections beyond early childhood.
But unlike modern humans, the structure of the Eustachian tubes in Neanderthals do not change with age — which means these ear infections and their complications, including respiratory infections, hearing loss, pneumonia, and worse, would not only become chronic, but a lifelong threat to overall health and survival.
“It’s not just the threat of dying of an infection,” said Dr. Márquez. “If you are constantly ill, you would not be as fit and effective in competing with your Homo sapien cousins for food and other resources. “In a world of survival of the fittest, it is no wonder that modern man, not Neanderthal, prevailed.”Paper. (paywall) – Anthony Santino Pagano, Samuel Márquez, Jeffrey T. Laitman. Reconstructing the Neanderthal Eustachian Tube: New Insights on Disease Susceptibility, Fitness Cost, and Extinction. The Anatomical Record, 2019; DOI: 10.1002/ar.24248 More.
It’s getting to the point where a quality broadcasting group could make a palatable film series about the Neanderthals. Now that we are long past the Ooga! Ooga! thing.
A deathbed scene… including the discovery that a daughter has eloped with one of those others…. !
See also: Neanderthal Man: The long-lost relative turns up again, this time with documents
A deep and abiding need for Neanderthals to be stupid. Why?
Follow UD News at Twitter!