The long-running debate over whether Neanderthals were an ancestor of modern humans may be settled by a nose.
More precisely, by five noses.
Anthropologists have long been divided into two camps, the "lumpers," who believe Neanderthals were the ancestors of modern humans or Homo sapiens and the "splitters" who believe they represented another, distinct evolutionary branch.
In research published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Science, anthropologists at the American Museum of Natural History in New York and the University of Pittsburgh analyze the noses, sinuses and nasal cavities of five Neanderthal fossils and conclude that the differences from today's humans strongly support the theory of a separate species.
"Our ongoing studies indicate that the Neanderthals differ from modern humans in their skeletal anatomy in more ways than have been recognized up to now," Ian Tattersall of the museum and Pittsburgh's Jeffrey Schwartz wrote.