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Oct 29, 2008 4:27 pm

Why did Neanderthals have such big noses?

The Neanderthal's huge nose is a fluke of evolution, not some grand adaptation, research suggests.

The Neanderthal nose has been a matter of befuddlement for anthropologists, who point out that modern cold-adapted humans have narrow noses to moisten and warm air as it enters the lung, and reduce water and heat loss during exhalation.

Big noses tend to be found in people whose ancestors evolved in tropical climates, where a large nasal opening helps cool the body.

But Neanderthals go against this trend, says Tim Weaver, a palaeoanthropologist at the University of California, Davis, who was not involved in the study.

"They were living in the glacial environment of Europe, colder than it is today, for most of the time," he says. "So it's sort of been an anomaly. Why do they have these wide nasal apertures?"..

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