- "Neanderthal Males had Popeye-like Arms" (Discovery News)
- "Neanderthals Were More Promiscuous Than Modern Humans, Fossil Finger Bones Suggest" (ScienceDaily)
- "Neanderthal man 'sang and danced'" (BBC)
- Or, even, "Was Neanderthal man the original metrosexual? New study suggests he wore make-up" (to be fair, that last one was from the online version of the Daily Mail, Mail Online so we can't expect much!)
It's true titles like these serve their purpose and grab the readers attention, and of course misleading titles altered to be more suprising or shocking pervades media on other topics too. But the result is that the message the reader takes away can be a very mislead one.
Yesterday an article on Neanderthals was published in ScienceNOW called "Neandertal Brains Developed More Like Chimps'". To the reader, this would have a very suggestive implication that Neanderthals brains are somehow chimp-like, and attrubute them with chimp-like behaviour. But really, what the article is about (http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2010/11/neandertal-brains-developed-more.html?rss=1), is how human brains are different from other primates, with a unique brain growth pattern early on in child brain development. Science Daily covered the same story with the title, "Brains of Neanderthals and Modern Humans Developed Differently", and Discovery News with, "Human, Neanderthal Brains the Same Until Birth".
It is facinating to look to our past in amusement when the first Neanderthal bones were uncovered in Germany in the 1850s, and how the image of the arthritic lumbering cave man emerged in popular culture. With todays media, however, that image looks no nearer to a true picture of our late sister species.