New research suggests that Neanderthals may not have been a sub-species of modern humans, as was previously believed.
The study, led by SUNY Downstate Medical Center and published in The Anatomical Record, identifies new evidence that Neanderthals were a separate species from Homo sapiens.
Scientists studied the Neanderthal nasal complex and found that it "was not adaptively inferior to that of modern humans," Phys.org reports. The researchers suggest that the Neanderthals' extinction may be because they were competing with modern humans, not because their noses couldn't adapt to cold, dry climates.
Previous research has compared Neanderthal noses to those of Inuits and modern Europeans, who adapted to the cold and dry climates, but the new study suggests that scientists were approaching the nasal complex "from the wrong perspective," Phys.org notes. The Neanderthal nose possessed "a mosaic of features not found among any population of Homo sapiens." The findings led the researchers to conclude that Neanderthals were a different species entirely, and they may have had other adaptations to combat the cold.