Continuity and Discontinuity in the Peopling of Europe

Part of the series Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology pp 127-138


A Preliminary Approach to the Neanderthal Speciation by Distance Hypothesis: A View from the Shoulder Complex

  • Jean-Luc VoisinAffiliated withUSM 103, UMR 7194, Institut de Paléontologie HumaineFaculté de Médecine, UMR 6578, Université de la Méditerranée Aix-Marseille 2 Email author 

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Neanderthal extinction is still under debate and there are two main schools of thought on this topic: (1) Neanderthals and modern humans are two distinct species and (2) Neanderthals and modern humans are a single species, with or without two subspecies. Recently, a new hypothesis has risen up, which takes into account arguments from both schools: the Neanderthal speciation by distance (i.e. Voisin 2006c). This hypothesis is based on a morphological cline from East to West in Neanderthal populations. In other words, the farther those populations lived to the west, the more they displayed pronounced Neanderthal characters. The aim of this study is to test the speciation by distance hypothesis in Neanderthal in regard to the shoulder complex. The shoulder girdle displays a morphological cline from East to West, but only for architectural characters and not for functional ones. This cline could be better explained by a result of a speciation by distance induced by genetic drift than by a different response to any physical activities. This study tends to confirm the speciation by distance model for Neanderthal, even if more studies are needed to confirm it firmly.


Geographical cline Europe Near East Shoulder girdle Clavicle Scapula