Ontogeny of the maxilla in Neanderthals and their ancestors.
Neanderthals had large and projecting (prognathic) faces similar to those of their putative ancestors from Sima de los Huesos (SH) and different from the retracted modern human face. When such differences arose during development and the morphogenetic modifications involved are unknown. We show that maxillary growth remodelling (bone formation and resorption) of the Devil's Tower (Gibraltar 2) and La Quina 18 Neanderthals and four SH hominins, all sub-adults, show extensive bone deposition, whereas in modern humans extensive osteoclastic bone resorption is found in the same regions. This morphogenetic difference is evident by ∼5 years of age. Modern human faces are distinct from those of the Neanderthal and SH fossils in part because their postnatal growth processes differ markedly. The growth remodelling identified in these fossil hominins is shared with Australopithecus and early Homo but not with modern humans suggesting that the modern human face is developmentally derived.