Ancient Neanderthals suffered from an occupational disease of surfers

With frequent and prolonged contact of a person with cold sea or fresh water, there is a risk of developing a specific ailment called "exostosis" or "surfer's ear". It is believed that this is a reaction of the inner ear to hypothermia, which manifests itself in the form of the appearance of bone growths in the ear canals. And recently it turned out that for some unknown reason this ailment very often struck ... the ancient Neanderthals.

Paleoanthropologists Eric Trinkaus, Sebastien Willott and Matilda Samsel, after analyzing 77 ancient hominid skulls with well-preserved ear canals, revealed a clear pattern. In Neanderthals, exostoses were encountered twice as often as in any other human ancestors, and there were both small and huge formations, at all stages of development. But where did this ethnic group come from?

It is unlikely that the ancient hominids loved the cold and practiced hardening in icy water, much more often they settled near warm and shallow lakes, on the banks of rivers. Yes, they could get into the water for prey, but bone analyzes show that fish occupied a very modest place in the diet of Neanderthals. Taking the risk of bumping into predatory aquatic fauna just for the pleasure of a swim? It is also doubtful.

The version with a genetic mutation has not been confirmed either. In 1998, scientists examined over a thousand skulls from Chile, whose owners lived between 7000 BC. and 1500 AD The analysis showed that the inhabitants of the highlands did not encounter such a problem at all. But among residents of coastal regions, exostoses were found in 30% of cases. The dependence on proximity to water is obvious, but how exactly did it work?