Livin' on the MDedge

Neanderthal otitis media and why you can’t chillax


 

The anatomy of extinction

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Barely a day goes by without a new theory about What Killed the Dinosaurs. A meteor killed the dinosaurs. Volcanoes killed the dinosaurs. Donald Trump asked the Ukrainians to kill the dinosaurs. Hilary Clinton’s emails killed the dinosaurs. Donald Trump asked the Australians to say that Robert Mueller killed the dinosaurs. The liberal media are covering up the existence of dinosaurs.

Enough already. What about the primates? We humans are still around – at least for the time being. But when was the last time you heard a good theory about what killed the Neanderthals?

Well, hang on to your earmuffs, because here comes one now.

Researchers have reconstructed the Neanderthal Eustachian tubes and determined that those early rivals of Homo sapiens were done in by … chronic ear infections.

The Neanderthal Eustachian tubes were very similar to those of human infants, and “middle ear infections are nearly ubiquitous among infants because the flat angle of an infant’s Eustachian tubes is prone to retain the otitis media bacteria that cause these infections – the same flat angle we found in Neanderthals,” coauthor Samuel Márquez, PhD, of the State University of New York said in a statement.

Unlike modern humans, however, the Neanderthal eustachian tube did not change with age, so middle ear infections were a lifelong threat.

“It’s not just the threat of dying of an infection,” said Dr. Márquez. “If you are constantly ill, you would not be as fit and effective in competing with your Homo sapiens cousins for food and other resources. In a world of survival of the fittest, it is no wonder that modern man, not Neanderthal, prevailed.”

In other words, it wasn’t brains that beat the big, bad Neanderthals; it was their own baby ears.

H. sapiens, raise a glass: Ears to you, Charles Darwin.

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