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The brains of Neanderthals were just as big as humans, according to new research.
Virtual casts of skull fossils were used to reproduce the brain of a 50,000-year-old ancestor.
They found that overall it was equal to that of early humans but smaller in one region vital for memory and thinking.
The Japanese team said this may have meant an inability to adapt and led to the species dying out.
Naomichi Ogihara said: “Differences in cognitive or neural function may explain why Neanderthals were replaced by Homo Sapiens.”
Neanderthals were known to have good eyesight, making them excellent hunters, which helped compensate for Europe’s low light levels. But it would have reduced the brain space available for social cognition.
Numerous theories of Neanderthal extinction include differences in the ability to adapt to rapidly changing climate and environment or variations in technical, economic and social systems.
Others have been put forward such as less efficient subsistence strategies and language skill. Cannibalism has even been suggested.
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