A highly specialized bone that enables humans to speak has also been found in Neanderthals, bolstering the theory that our way-distant cousins could vocalize as well as we can.
The horseshoe-shaped bone, called the hyoid, supports the very base of the tongue and is critical for speech, reports the BBC. Higher primates like apes don't have the bone, which is why they, with a few notable exceptions, can't speak.
An international team of researchers worked with a Neanderthal throat bone, creating a 3-D model that they then manipulated to see how it might have worked, the BBC said. They found that it worked just like a Homo Sapien throat bone does.
Are You Related to Neanderthals?
"We would argue that this is a very significant step forward. It shows that the Kebara 2 hyoid doesn't just look like those of modern humans -- it was used in a very similar way," Stephen Wroe, from the University of New England, Armidale, NSW, Australia, told the BBC.
Research published over the summer in the journal Frontiers in Language Sciences said there was strong genetic, fossil and archaeological evidence that modern speech and language existed not only among Neanderthals and Denisovans, but also in early human species.