What drove Neanderthals to extinction 40,000 years ago?
The last of the Neanderthals extinction, the last Neanderthals vanished from Earth about 40,000 years ago.
The closest extinct relatives of modern humans ‘Neanderthals’, disappeared from Europe about 40,000 years ago. What happened? What exactly drove them into extinction? This question remains a mystery.
Quick note: Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) were widespread across Europe and Western Asia for a long time, starting about 400,000 years ago’
‘things began to change when populations of Homo sapiens (earlier members of our own species) migrated from Africa to Europe at about 45,000 years ago. Five thousand years later not a single Neanderthal remained.’
Some views have it that their disappearance can be attributed to anything from climate change to inferior cognitive abilities or even cannibalism.
Scientists argued whether the dispersal of modern humans across the globe helped kill off Neanderthals, either directly through conflict or indirectly through the spread of disease.
Silvana Condemi, a paleoanthropologist at Aix-Marseille University in Marseille, France told Live Science, “the disappearance of the Neanderthal population is an exciting subject — imagine a human group that has lived for thousands of years and is very well-adapted to its environment, and then disappears…
For a long time, it was thought that Homo sapiens had simply killed the Neanderthals. Today, thanks to the results of genetic analysis, we know that the encounters between Neanderthals and sapiens were not always so cruel, and that interbreeding took place — even today’s humans have genes of Neanderthal origin.”
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Another opinion on their extinction is based on low fertility, Condemi said, The disappearance of the Neanderthals was probably due to a slight decline in the fertility among the youngest women, with a 2.7% decrease in fertility rates of young Neanderthal women; the first-time mothers less than 20 years old within 4,000 years with an 8% decrease in fertility rates in this same group.
This could be responsible for the extinction he said. A variety of factors might have lowered these fertility rates. Condemi noted that pregnancies among young, first-time mothers “are on the average more risky than second or later pregnancies.
Anthony Pagano, a medical researcher at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, has a new explanation. He thinks Neanderthals might have been unusually prone to severe ear infections, which left them struggling to compete against their Homo sapiens cousins.
In modern humans, ear infections can happen at any age but it is mainly young children who get them; five out of six will have at least one such infection before their third birthday.
In 2017 Dr Pagano suggested this could be because of the orientation of the Eustachian tube, which is located just inside the eardrum, and connects the middle ear to the back of the throat.
The throat end of this tube opens when a person swallows, allowing air to be sucked in or pushed out of the middle ear so that its internal air pressure matches the outside world. This is why swallowing during take-off or landing on a plane can relieve painful pressure in the ears.
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