The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

Energy demands of growth in Neanderthal children


1Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana, CENIEH, Burgos, Spain, 2Laboratory for Human Biology Research, Department of Anthropology, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, USA, 3Dpt. Matemáticas y Computación, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Burgos, Burgos, Spain

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Over the past several years, energetic approaches have been used increasingly to address key issues in Neanderthal ecology and evolution. However, previous work has focused exclusively on energy requirements of adults. The purpose of this paper is to use an energetics perspective to explore the distinctive patterns of growth and development and life history characteristics of Neanderthal children.

In this work we estimate basal metabolic rates (BMR; kcal/d) and total energy expenditure (TEE; kcal/d) of 10 young Neanderthals from birth to 6 years. Data on age at death and tibial and femoral lengths were collected from the literature. Height was estimated using published regression equations and reference data from contemporary circumpolar populations was used to estimate body weights and growth rates in Neanderthal children. Basal, growth, and total energy costs were then calculated drawing on reference data and equations from the WHO (FAO/WHO/UNU 1985, 2004). Energy costs associated with temperature stress were estimated using the predictive equations of Froehle (2008).

During few months after birth, Neanderthal children have higher TEE than modern humans of the same age. From that period onward, if the temperature adjustments are not included, Neanderthal children have lower BMR and TEE than their modern human age peers (FAO/WHO/UNU 2004). However, when temperature stress is added, estimated BMR and TEE are markedly greater the published average ones (FAO/WHO/UNU 2004). These findings underscore the severe thermal and metabolic constraints faced by Neanderthal infants and young children, and their implications for both growth and development and maternal energy allocation.

This research was funded by the Spanish Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación (MICINN), Project No CGL2009-12703-C03-01. Idoia Goikoetxea and Guillermo Rodríguez-Gómez have the benefit of a Predoctoral FPI Grant of the Spanish MICINN.

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