Neanderthals looked different from us for a good reason.
A recent study was uncovered why our ancient relatives don’t share similar facial features with us. There are three theories to help explain the change, but they suggest Neanderthals acquired their facial structure while trying to survive the ice age.
The first theory suggests their faces made heavy biting easier, so they could chew on the tough meat they hunted. This theory is considered to be one of the strongest and is backed by wear on fossilized teeth.
The second theory explains how Neanderthals breathed. They lived in cold, sometimes harsh conditions, meaning the air they inhaled was extremely cold. Their large nasal cavities could’ve been used to warm the air before it entered their lungs. However, this is considered more unlikely because climate has little effect on respiratory demands.
The last theory attributes their large airways to what’s called “turbo breathing,” allowing them to take giant breathes of air while working on tasks that require lots of energy or to burn calories when keeping warm.
Researchers think they still need more data before they can prove their hypothesis. But, regardless, the 3D models give us great insight into how our species diverged and why homo sapiens look so dramatically different.