Neandertal growth: what are the costs?
Energetic approaches have been increasingly used to address key issues in Neandertal palaeoecology and palaeobiology. Previous research has focused exclusively on the energy requirements of adults and highlights the high energy demands of these individuals compared with modern humans. Less attention has been paid to the energy requirements of sub-adult Neandertals, even though this age group could provide clues for a better understanding of Neandertal life history. Accordingly, herein, we estimate the energy costs of maintenance and growth in Neandertal infants and children from one to six years of age and compare these costs with values for modern humans. Statural growth models for two modern human populations (Beasain and Evenki) and an average Neandertal model population are used to establish weight growth models. In turn, these models of body weight growth are used to estimate key components of energetic variables (basal metabolic rate, total energy expenditure, energy of growth and daily energy requirements). Between three and six years of age, Neandertal children have slightly lower basal and growth energy costs than do modern humans of the same age, due primarily to their smaller body mass and slower growth rates. The reduction in energy allocated to growth is likely the result of metabolic adaptations to other somatic factors and thermal stress. Data from contemporary human infants and children suggest that even mild cold stress increases non-shivering thermogenesis, thus elevating metabolic needs by 50% or more. These results suggest that thermal stress likely played a strong role in shaping the delayed developmental patterns and lower energy allocated to growth during early life in Neandertals relative to Homo sapiens.