Neanderthals reached full adulthood at the age of 15

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The Independent Online

Neanderthal man grew up faster than his modern-day cousins and probably reached full adulthood at 15 years of age, scientists have found.

An extensive study of Neanderthal teeth dating back from about 130,000 to 28,000 years ago has found that these early humans developed more quickly than previously realised.

According to research by Fernando Ramirez Rozzi from the French National Centre for Research in Ivry and Jose Maria Bermudez de Castro of the Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales in Madrid, the findings suggest that the early maturity of the Neanderthals may have been necessary because they suffered high mortality rates when adults. Fossilised teeth from Neanderthal sites show that they were fully grown adults in their mid-teens.

The study also lends weight to the growing evidence to suggest that Neanderthal man was a distant cousin of Homo sapiens and not a direct ancestor.