Neanderthals may have self-medicated long before pills, study shows

A brand new study which focused on the hardened dental plaque of four Neanderthals — two found at a site in Spain along with also two through Belgium — indicates they may have turned to plants to relieve pain.

The study published Wednesday inside journal Nature had several surprises.

For starters, the Neanderthals through Spain had completely different diets through their counterparts found in Belgium.

They chowed on various foods, including mushrooms, pine nuts along with also sheep meat, depending on the region they lived in.

DNA analysis through tooth plaque reveals insight into  Neanderthals' behavior.

Just veggies in Spain

The pair of Neanderthals through El Sidrón Cave in Spain led what appears to have been a vegetarian lifestyle. A study of their dental plaque revealed they dined on mushrooms, moss along with also pine nuts — with no meat.

They were not necessarily vegetarians by choice, however. which was more likely a product of their environment.

The Neanderthals in which region lived in dense forests with no animals, according to Alan Cooper, co-author of the study along with also professor at the University of Adelaide in Australia.

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nevertheless the more surprising finding was which one of the two Neanderthals through Spain appeared to have used plants to treat his ailments.

which Neanderthal had a nasty tooth abscess, bad diarrhea along with also appeared to be “self-medicating,” Cooper said.

Plaque through his teeth showed he was eating poplar, which contains the active ingredient of aspirin. The plaque also indicated a presence of a natural form of the antibiotic penicillin which was not found inside additional specimens, he said.

“Apparently, Neanderthals possessed a not bad knowledge of medicinal plants along with also their various anti-inflammatory along with also pain-relieving properties …,” Cooper said in a statement.

“The use of antibiotics would likely be very surprising, as which can be more than 40,000 years before we developed penicillin.”

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The findings paint a different image of Neanderthals, who have long been associated having a simple existence. However, Cooper cautioned, which Neanderthal could also have eaten the plants without knowing of their medicinal qualities.

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Unlike the Neanderthals through Spain, their counterparts through Spy Cave in Belgium were feasting on more than just vegetables.

“We found which the Neanderthals through Spy Cave consumed woolly rhinoceros along with also European wild sheep, supplemented with wild mushrooms,” Cooper said.

“Those through El Sidrón Cave on the additional hand showed no evidence for meat consumption … showing quite different lifestyles between the two groups.”

Performing dentistry on Neanderthals

Before which study, the diet of Neanderthals was hotly debated amongst researchers because different theories arose through studying the wear on Neanderthal teeth.

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“Our study definitely tied together years of previous research through many different fields, as we’re able to describe these different diets in different Neanderthals with very high resolution,” said Laura Weyrich, lead study author along with also postdoctoral research associate at the University of Adelaide.

The samples used range through between 42,000 to 50,000 years old, creating them the oldest dental plaque to be analyzed genetically, according to Cooper.

Because dental plaque can be a biofilm of bacteria which calcifies along with also hardens, which can preserve bacteria for thousands of years, Weyrich said.

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“In ancient dental calculus, we are able to find DNA through the microorganisms inside plaque, nevertheless also anything else which has gone into the mouth, including food or work items — for example if ancient people were cutting rope with their teeth, we might be able to see the DNA through the plant material used to make the rope,” Weyrich said.

nevertheless where did the idea of studying dental plaque come through?

Weyrich along with also Cooper were part of the research group which ignited which brand new research field in 2013 with the goal of understanding how health along with also disease has changed through time.

“which method definitely can be a brand new groundbreaking way to do which,” Weyrich said. “We figured out which we could obtain bacterial DNA through dental plaque which was calcified on ancient skeletons. which can be once which has been applied on an extinct species.

“Being able to hold a Neanderthal skull, along with also essentially take him to the dentist, was certainly something you don’t get to do everyday! which’s difficult to convince a museum which they should destructively sample a Neanderthal for a brand brand new field of research. We’re so glad which several groups put their trust in us along with also our research.”

Being able to take a closer look at the DNA on these samples has also provided our best glimpse yet into the Neanderthal lifestyle. For example, which revealed more about the microorganisms present in modern humans which are actually shared with Neanderthals.

“These particular organisms looks to be shared between Neanderthals along with also humans about 0,000 year ago, or about the time which humans along with also Neandertals were interbreeding,” Weyrich said. “These interbreeding encounters were often described as brash, rough one-night stands, nevertheless if they were swapping oral microorganisms, which means they were also swapping spit. So, potentially kissing or food sharing would likely have been involved, which suggests which these encounters may have been much more friendly than anyone imagined.”

Source : Neanderthals may have self-medicated long before pills, study shows

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