Unique ramus anatomy for Neandertals?

Am J Phys Anthropol. 2005 Oct;128(2):245-51. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.10432.


The ramus of Neandertal mandibles is said to show a suite of uniquely Neandertal character states that demonstrate the independent course of Neandertal evolution. This is the latest of numerous attempts to define cranial and mandibular autapomorphies for Neandertals. We examine variation in the four presumably autapomorphic ramal features and show they are neither monomorhic within Neandertals (to the contrary Neandertals are at least as variable as other human samples) nor unique to Neandertals, since they regularly appear in populations predating and postdating them. Neandertals differ from other human populations, both contemporary and recent, but the question of whether this fact reflects a divergent evolutionary trajectory must be addressed by the pattern of differences. In this case, as in the other attempts to establish Neandertal autapomorphies, rather than showing restricted variation and increased specialization, the Neandertal sample shows that the range of human variation in the recent past encompasses, and in some cases exceeds, human variation today, even in the very features claimed to be autapomorphic.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anthropology, Physical
  • Fossils*
  • History, Ancient
  • Hominidae / anatomy & histology*
  • Humans
  • Mandible / anatomy & histology*
  • Paleodontology