Evolution of Neanderthals in the cold

Freshman (College 1st year) ・Anthropology ・MLA ・1 Sources

The Evolution of the Neanderthals

The evolution of the Neanderthals took place during the succession of glacial-interglacial cycles. As a result, they had to survive extreme cold condition as the glacial cycle was longer than the interglacial cycle. How the Neanderthals nose cavity adapted to the cold environment has been a subject of debate. It has however been argued that the adaptation of Neanderthals to cold is based on the size of their maxillary sinus which when compared to modern humans, is larger in volumes. These large sinuses allowed for more production of nitric oxide within the endothelial cells that line the paranasal sinus mucosa (Márquez, Samuel, et al).

The Role of Nitric Oxide

Since nitric oxide is associated with energy levels, Márquez suggested that, “the potentially high gas production in Neanderthals reflects extensive respiratory activity facilitating greater cardiopulmonary efficiency to supplement the high energy expenditure to support strenuous foraging strategies and cold resistance” (Márquez, Samuel, et al).

Medial Projections

In addition, Neanderthals had clearly defined medial projections. The Medial projections may increase the surface area available nasal cavity. By occupying a strategic area, the medial projection would receive the initial impact cold air breathed in, therefore reducing its traumatic effect on nasal mucosa.


The argument against the Neanderthals nose and nasal cavity being adapted to cold is based on a comparison between human groups from cold and warm climates. An observation of humans from cold climates shows that cold weather is more highly correlated with smaller sinuses. Neanderthal sinuses were large. To be cold adapted Neanderthal’s sinuses would be smaller and not larger. Therefore, the cranial difference between Neanderthals and modern humans were a result of genetic drift and not a cold adaptation Márquez, Samuel, et al).

Work Cited

Márquez, Samuel, et al. “The Nasal Complex of Neanderthals: An Entry Portal to Their Place in Human Ancestry.” The Anatomical Record, vol. 297, no. 11, 2014, pp. 2121–2137., doi:10.1002/ar.23040

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