Neanderthals grew faster, died younger: study

According to the research led by scientists at Harvard University, humans became more sophisticated than other species because of the slow physical development and long childhood.

In contrast, other primates have shorter gestation. They mature faster in childhood, reproduce at a younger age and have shorter lifespans, even when compared with early humans, the Telegraph reported.

It had been unclear at what point in the six to seven million years since our evolutionary split from non-human primates the life course shifted. But a new examination of teeth from 11 Neanderthal and early human fossils by the researchers suggested that our move from a "live fast and die young" to a "live slow and grow old" strategy occurred fairly recently.

Tanya Smith, assistant professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard, said: "Teeth are remarkable time recorders, capturing each day of growth much like rings in trees reveal yearly progress.

"Even more impressive is the fact that our first molars contain a tiny 'birth certificate', and finding this birth line allows scientists to calculate exactly how old a juvenile was when it died."

Dr Smith and her colleagues found that young Neanderthals' teeth growth was significantly faster than in our own species, including some of the earliest groups of modern humans to leave Africa some 90,000 to 100,000 years ago.

This indicates that the elongation of childhood has been a relatively recent development, said the researchers who detailed their findings in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Besides the Harvard scientists, researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology (MPI-EVA) and the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) were also part of the study.

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