They thrived from about 150,000 to 30,000 years ago until their lineage failed for as-yet unknown reasons. Most researchers have argued that their life in extremely harsh, Ice Age-like environments, coupled with their limited technological skills, ultimately led to their demise.
In a study published last year in the journal Nature, other researchers contended that Neanderthal teeth took 15 percent less time to reach maturity than those in later Homo sapiens, suggesting to them that a Neanderthal childhood would be shorter than our own.
But Guatelli-Steinberg's team wanted a broader comparison and therefore compared the teeth from Neanderthals to those of three modern populations ?people currently living in Newcastle-upon-Tyne , U.K. ; indigenous people from southern Africa, and Inuit from Alaska dating from 500 B.C. until the present.
"We chose these three groups since they would provide a good cross-section of various populations from different regions of the world," she said. "We feel that they give us some insights into the variation that exists within modern humans."
For the study, the researchers used precise dental impressions Guatelli-Steinberg and Larsen made of 55 teeth believed to come from 30 Neanderthal individuals. These were compared to 65 teeth from 17 Inuit, 134 teeth from 114 southern Africans and 115 teeth from as many Newcastle residents. In all cases, the researchers tallied the number of perikymata on the enamel surface of the teeth.
Guatelli-Steinberg said that the results showed that the enamel formation times for the Neanderthals fell easily within the range of time shown by teeth from the three modern populations ?a conclusion
Source:Ohio State University