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Neanderthals used their thumbs differently than we do

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  • Neanderthals used their thumbs differently than we do

    A team of British and French researchers have discovered that the thumbs of Neanderthals (who who lived in Eurasia until going extinct roughly 40,000 years ago) were better adapted for holding tools in what is known as power "squeeze" grips (in the same way that we hold a hammer -- between the fingers and the palm with the thumb directing force) and found grips requiring more precision (like holding objects between the tip of the finger and thumb in the way we hold a pen) more difficult.

    Using 3D analysis, Ameline Bardo, a Biological Anthropologist and Primatologist at the University of Kent's School of Anthropology and Conservation's Skeletal Biology Research Centre, and her colleagues mapped the joints between the bones responsible for movement of the thumb (known as the trapeziometacarpal complex) of the remains of five Neanderthals and compared them to those from both early modern humans and recent modern adults.

    While it has been known that their fingers were considerably more chunky than ours it appears that their thumbs stuck out from the hand at a much wider angle.

    "The joint at the base of the thumb of the Neanderthal fossils is flatter with a smaller contact surface between the bones, which is better suited to an extended thumb positioned alongside the side of the hand," Bardo explained in an e-mail. "By contrast, human thumbs have joint surfaces that are generally larger and more curved, "which is an advantage when gripping objects between the pads of the finger and thumb, a precision grip,"

    Bardo noted that "If you were to shake a Neanderthal hand you would notice this difference. There would be confusion over where to place the thumb, and for a thumb fight I think you would win in terms of speed and movement!"

    The researchers noted that Neanderthals would still have been capable of precision hand postures, but would have found this more challenging than modern humans, according to the authors.


    Source: Neanderthal Thumbs were Better Adapted to Holding Tools with Handles: Study



    "Much research has debated the technological abilities of Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) relative to those of early modern humans (Homo sapiens), with a particular focus on subtle differences in thumb morphology and how this may reflect differences in manipulative behaviors in these two species," said lead author Dr. Ameline Bardo from the Skeletal Biology Research Centre at the University of Kent and colleagues.

    "We provide a novel perspective on this debate through a 3D geometric morphometric analysis of shape covariation between the trapezial and proximal first metacarpal articular surfaces of Neanderthals in comparison to early and recent humans."

    The researchers used 3D analysis to map the joints between the bones responsible for movement of the thumb (referred to collectively as the trapeziometacarpal complex) of five Neanderthal individuals.

    They then compared the results to measurements taken from the remains of five early modern humans and 40 recent modern adults.

    They found covariation in shape and relative orientation of the trapeziometacarpal complex joints that suggest different repetitive thumb movements in Neanderthals compared with modern humans.

    The joint at the base of the thumb of the Neanderthal remains is flatter with a smaller contact surface, and better suited to an extended thumb positioned alongside the side of the hand.

    This thumb posture suggests the regular use of power ‘squeeze’ grips, like the ones we now use to hold tools with handles.

    In comparison, these joint surfaces are generally larger and more curved in recent modern human thumbs, an advantage when gripping objects between the pads of the finger and thumb, known as a precision grip.

    "Although the morphology of the studied Neanderthals is better suited for power ‘squeeze’ grips, they would still have been capable of precision hand postures — but they would have found this more challenging than modern humans," Dr. Bardo said.

    "Comparison of fossil morphology between the hands of Neanderthals and modern humans may provide further insight into the behaviours of our ancient relatives and early tool use."


    Source

    © Copyright Original Source



    The entire paper, The implications of thumb movements for Neanderthal and modern human manipulation can be seen at the hyperlink provided. Here is the abstract from it.

    Much research has debated the technological abilities of Neanderthals relative to those of early modern humans, with a particular focus on subtle differences in thumb morphology and how this may reflect differences in manipulative behaviors in these two species. Here, we provide a novel perspective on this debate through a 3D geometric morphometric analysis of shape covariation between the trapezial and proximal first metacarpal articular surfaces of Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) in comparison to early and recent humans (Homo sapiens). Results show a distinct pattern of shape covariation in Neanderthals, consistent with more extended and adducted thumb postures that may reflect habitual use of grips commonly used for hafted tools. Both Neanderthals and recent humans demonstrate high intraspecific variation in shape covariation. This intraspecific variation is likely the result of genetic and/or developmental differences, but may also reflect, in part, differing functional requirements imposed by the use of varied tool-kits. These results underscore the importance of holistic joint shape analysis for understanding the functional capabilities and evolution of the modern human thumb.
    Last edited by rogue06; 11-28-2020, 01:00 PM.

    I'm always still in trouble again

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    "Of course, human life begins at fertilization thatís not the argument." --Tassman

  • #2
    Interesting adaptation of how the Neanderthal hunts.
    Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
    Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
    But will they come when you do call for them? Shakespeareís Henry IV, Part 1, Act III:

    go with the flow the river knows . . .

    Frank

    I do not know, therefore everything is in pencil.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by shunyadragon View Post
      Interesting adaptation of how the Neanderthal hunts.
      I was going to postulate on whether this might have been part of the reason that it is thought that Neanderthals didn't use throwing spears but that has been shown not to be true: Neanderthals Used Spears to Hunt Targets From Afar



      I'm always still in trouble again

      "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
      "Of course, human life begins at fertilization thatís not the argument." --Tassman

      Comment


      • #4
        They must not have done too much text messaging.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
          I was going to postulate on whether this might have been part of the reason that it is thought that Neanderthals didn't use throwing spears but that has been shown not to be true: Neanderthals Used Spears to Hunt Targets From Afar
          The thumb may have been an advantage in other tool use for strength other than throwing spears.

          Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
          Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
          But will they come when you do call for them? Shakespeareís Henry IV, Part 1, Act III:

          go with the flow the river knows . . .

          Frank

          I do not know, therefore everything is in pencil.

          Comment

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