Innovations in Biotechnology and Medical Sciences

Did Neanderthals shape our noses?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Neanderthals , Read the attached story

Mains level: Evolutionary features of Humans


Central Idea

  • The human nose has historical and cultural importance beyond its practical functions.
  • Different societies have their own standards of beauty related to nose shape and proportion.
  • The nose is significant in art, literature, and remnants of ancient civilizations.

Who were the Neanderthals?

Time Period Lived approximately 400,000 to 40,000 years ago during the Middle Paleolithic and Late Pleistocene epochs
Physical Appearance Robust build with a barrel-shaped chest, shorter limbs, and distinctive anatomical features such as pronounced brow ridges and a projecting mid-face
Tools and Technology Skilled toolmakers who used a variety of tools made from stone, bone, and antler
Culture and Behavior Complex social structures and likely lived in small groups or bands, exhibited advanced hunting techniques, made use of fire, and engaged in symbolic expressions through personal ornamentation and cave art
Adaptation to Environments Adapted to cold and temperate environments, had robust bodies, large noses, and other physiological characteristics were advantageous for survival in harsh conditions
Interactions with Modern Humans Interbred with early modern humans who migrated out of Africa. As a result, some individuals today carry a small percentage of Neanderthal DNA in their genomes, particularly in non-African populations
Extinction Around 40,000 years ago
Scientific Significance Closest extinct relatives, and understanding their anatomy, behavior, and interactions with modern humans helps reconstruct our shared past

Genetic association study on Human Nose

  • A recent study used 2D images and automated measurements of facial landmarks to conduct a genetic association study.
  • The study involved over 6,000 Latin American individuals and identified 42 new genetic loci associated with the human nose.
  • Some of these loci, including 1q32.3, were replicated in other populations like Asians, Europeans, and Africans.

Role of Neanderthal Genes and ATF3 Gene

  • The genetic locus 1q32.3, associated with midface height, has contributions from Neanderthals.
  • The ATF3 gene, located in this locus, is regulated by FOXL2, which is involved in skull and face development.
  • Changes in nose shape may have evolutionary implications, helping humans adapt to different climates.

Neanderthal Genomes and Human Traits

  • Genomic loci from Neanderthals and Denisovans have influenced various traits and diseases in modern humans.
  • Evidence suggests these genomic contributions affect pathogen response, skin conditions, blood conditions, cancers, and mental health.
  • Understanding the genetic interactions between archaic and modern human genomes aids in comprehending genetic diversity and adaptability.

Human Origins and Interbreeding

  • Human migrations out of Africa, interbreeding with Neanderthals and Denisovans, and extinct archaic hominids have shaped human traits.
  • Recent studies highlight that early humans diverged in Africa from multiple ancestral roots, with varying degrees of genetic components from archaic humans in different populations.

Implications and Future Research

  • Studying the interbreeding event and its consequences deepens our understanding of genetic heritage.
  • The knowledge gained could lead to new avenues for disease study, treatment, and appreciation of human genetic diversity.
  • Continued research on the interplay between archaic and modern human genomes is an exciting frontier in genomics.


Key Terminologies

Loci/Locus: The position of a specific gene on a chromosome.

Introgression: The transfer of genetic information between different species or populations through interbreeding.

Neanderthals: Archaic hominids closely related to modern humans, believed to have interbred with early humans.

Denisovans: A subspecies of archaic humans who lived until around 30,000 years ago.

Genomic Loci: Specific locations on chromosomes associated with certain traits or characteristics.


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