The biological classification of the species more commonly known as the Neanderthal.

Homo neanderthalensis lived from 150,000 to 30,000 years ago; to give you some scale, Cro-Magnon men, who were the earliest form of modern humans, lived about 35,000 years ago.

Having acclimated to the weather in Europe during the Ice Age,Homo neanderthalensis was extremely muscular and robustly built, and it was fairly short in height. Examination of bones found suggest that it was regularly involved in heavy labor. Their skulls were big and made for chomping. Their jaws required so much muscle to work, they had this lobe made of bone on the back of their skull called an occipital bun that projected out in order to offer more surface area for muscle. Their brain was even bigger than ours, weighing in at a hefty 1500 cc (our brains are about 1400 cc). Don't worry, we have a better brain-to-body-weight ratio, so we're smarter anyway.

They are certain to have made tools, buried their dead, and may have even had some form of symbolic language. Though the vast majority of fossils indicate a larynx that is fairly undeveloped, and therefore they lacked the ability to speak very well, at least one fossil shows a larynx that is just as developed as ours.

Homo neanderthalensis has several enigmas surrounding it: Could it interbreed with humans? Was it of an entirely different species? Had it evolved parallel to humans, being an offshoot of our ancestors, or could we have even descended from it? What ultimately happened to Homo neanderthalensis?

On the last, there are two major schools of thought: either we, Homo sapiens, killed Homo neanderthalensis off, or we breeded with it, thereby incorperating its line into ours.

The first is a very distinct possibility, since they and us resided in the same area and ate the same food, and therefore we would have had to compete for survival. If this is the case and it came down to a fight, we may have won it for a few reasons. Firstly, we were smarter. Though they had tools and skillz, we had better tools and skillz. Secondly, some have speculated that Homo sapiens reproduced faster than Homo neanderthalensis, and therefore had the advantage of numbers. The idea of an interspecies war like this is extremely interesting and intriguing: think about it; when else in history have two fairly sentient species battled to the death?

The second has been supported by fossil finds recently that seem to suggest a Homo sapiens-Homo neanderthalensis hybrid, however if this truly is the case is uncertain. Some analyses of DNA from Homo sapiens have lacked Homo neanderthalensis genes, which is a point against this theory. At any rate, if the two did interbreed, then people today of European ancestory may have some Neanderthal in them.
Neanderthals almost certainly did not interbreed with Homo sapiens.

In light of recent advances in genetics, the general consensus in the scientific community is that the neanderthals were an entirely separate species that did not interbreed with anatomically modern man (Homo sapiens sapiens). This consensus is based on recent studies of mitochondrial DNA.

Mitochondrial DNA is a type of DNA found in the mitochondria of cells. This DNA is carried on the X chromosome and thus is inherited by every person from his or her mother. More importantly, this DNA does not mix with any DNA from the chromosome from the father and thus remains constant within a given family, except for random mutation. Because DNA mutates at a relatively constant rate, mitochondrial DNA samples taken from two different people can be used to date how long ago those two people had a common ancestor.

Mitochondrial DNA taken from people all over the world has shown that human beings had a common ancestor who lived in Africa about 150,000 to 100,000 years ago. Studies of Neanderthal DNA, however, suggest that Neanderthals had a common ancestor at least 250,000 years ago. Thus, we know that there can not have been any interbreeding between the ancestors of present day humans and Neanderthals because in that case, the date derived from human mitochondral DNA would have to have at least as old as that of Neanderthals. Although we have strong evidence that both Neanderthals and Homo sapiens were living side by side in Europe about 35,000 years ago, we can be virtually certain that the Neanderthals were an entirely separate species - H. neanderthalensis - rather than a subspecies (H. sapiens neanderthalensis).

Paleontologists did an analysis on Neanderthal bone fractures and compared them to bone fractures in different sets of humans. It turns out that Neanderthals sustained the same types of injuries as rodeo riders and other people who spend long amounts of time near powerful animals. Since they had not developed any kind of projectile weapons, Neanderthals probably used the straight up bum rush technique in acquiring meat, and this resulted in many injuries

Studies of Neanderthal campsites indicate that their diet was over 90% meat. This would place them higher up on the food chain and make them more reliant on the size of the local animal population. Since a wave of extinctions usually followed early humans wherever they went, the arrival of Homo Sapiens in Europe was probably no different. The loss of many animal species placed strain on Neanderthal hunting, and probably quickened their demise.

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