"For the first time, this reconstruction allows direct skeletal comparison between an articulated Neanderthal to that of a modern human, which reveals just how appreciable their morphological differences are," the authors report.
They found notable contrasts in the Neanderthal's rib cage and pelvis compared to those of modern humans. The Neanderthal thoracic area included a flaring lower rib area, indicating a bell-shaped trunk, not the barrel-shape that had previously been suggested. Further, they report a slightly shorter skeleton than previous estimates 163.8 cm although the height might have been slightly underestimated due to variation in vertebrate spacing and the use of bone casts from a potentially shorter individual.
"Reconstruction is by definition artistic and carries an element of subjectivity," the authors caution. "Although the rib cage and pelvis are visually compelling and convincing in demonstrating the relative difference in Neanderthals and modern humans, the introduction of some degree of artistic license makes it difficult to comment on the significance of these findings."
The reconstructed Neanderthal skeleton is currently on display at the Dolan DNA Learning Center in Cold Spring Harbor, NY and will eventually go on permanent display at the American Museum of Natural History.
"It is our hope that the reconstruction will serve as a practical tool for future human evolutionary research to study Neanderthal lifeways, specifically Neanderthal biomechanics covering all aspects of body movement including both arm movements and methods of locomotion," the authors conclude.