We don’t know everything about our early ancestors. But scientists are constantly in the field and the laboratory, excavating new areas and conducing analyses with groundbreaking technology, continually filling in some of the gaps about our understanding of human evolution. Below are some of the still unanswered questions about H. neanderthalensis that may be better answered with future discoveries:
1. Will more studies of Neanderthal DNA help us identify what is unique about the modern human genome compared with our closest extinct relatives, the Neanderthals?
2. Is there a close correlation between climate change and the extinction of the Neanderthals, or was competition with modern humans the most important factor?
3. What was the relative contribution of animal and plant sources to the average Neanderthal's diet?
4. Were Neanderthals routinely symbolic (e.g. making ornamental or decorative objects, burying the dead), or did this just occur in specific populations? If the latter is the case, why did those populations exhibit these behaviors?
- Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Human Origins Program: http://humanorigins.si.edu/evidence/human-fossils/species/homo-neanderthalensis
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