Body Growth and Life History of Modern Humans and Neanderthals from the Perspective of Human Evolution
Human life history is comprised of five stages of development: infancy, early and middle childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Each stage is associated with particular rates of physical growth (e.g., height [cm/year]), characteristics of dentition, changes related to methods of feeding, physical and mental competencies, and maturation of the reproductive system and sexual behavior. An extended period from juvenility through adolescence that separates infancy from adulthood is unique to humans; the life histories of other mammals, including other primates, have a comparatively brief transition into physical and cognitive maturity. Extended adolescence in humans is argued to have evolved to accommodate our greater brain growth, which together affords the ability to acquire the accumulated cultural knowledge and social skills necessary for success as a mature adult. In this article, I propose that there may have been key differences in the life history characteristics of Neanderthals and H. sapiens, with Neanderthals experiencing comparatively short juvenile and adolescent stages of development. Neanderthals would consequently have been at a disadvantage in terms of their learning capacity, contributing to their eventual replacement by H. sapiens.
KeywordsBody growth Life history Modern humans Neanderthals Adolescence Human evolution
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