Washington (AFP)

What is the common point between a surfer, a kayaker and the Neanderthal? A bone growth in the ear canal known to the general public as the "surfer's ear", according to the results of a study published Wednesday.

Known medically as exostosis, this development affects people who practice aquatic sports in cold areas.

And since our old cousins ​​who were missing 40,000 years ago were probably not looking for a good wave, the researchers concluded in the scientific journal PLOS ONE that they were doing much more fishing than it was estimated so far.

This discovery "reinforces a number of arguments that the Neanderthal man was flexible and adaptable," the study's lead author, Erik Trinkaus, told AFP.

For prehistoric men, being able to sin meant a minimum of evolution. "Having some technology, knowing when the fish will go up the river or go near the shore ... It's a rather elaborate process," says the researcher from Washington University in St. Louis (Missouri).

Erik Trinkaus and his colleagues at the University of Bordeaux in France, Sebastien Villotte and Mathilde Samsel, have studied the well-preserved auditory ducts of 77 remains of Neanderthals and the first Homo sapiens found in Europe and Western Asia.

Half of the Neanderthal's 23 remains, 40,000 to 100,000 years old, have these "surfing ears", a much higher rate than modern humans.

In 1911, French paleontologist Marcellin Boule had already made similar observations. "The left hole is narrowed to the middle by bone productions that give it an hourglass shape," he wrote.

But, according to Erik Trinkaus, the hardest part remains to convince the paleontologist community, which had already shown skepticism in 2018 when it was discovered that the oldest forms of art discovered in a cave in Spain were the work of Neanderthal and not newer humans.

"How can we say that it was done by Neanderthal? They were too stupid to do that!", Was the criticism often emitted, regrets Erik Trinkaus.

"It's the same people who will say + How can we go from a bone growth in the ear to the ability to feed? +", He regrets.

The final goal for him, however, is to complete the puzzle, still unfinished, the story of Neanderthal.

"You have to try to understand them as a people," he pleads.

© 2019 AFP