Freezing conditions, food shortages overwhelmed Neanderthal population in Western Europe

January 4th, 2008 - 5:16 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of National Geographic

Washington, January 4 (ANI): A study of mammal remains from Saint-Cesaire, a Stone Age site in southwestern France, suggests that Neanderthals in Western Europe were ravaged by an increasingly hostile climate, rather than the invasion of modern humans.

Eugene Morin of Canada’s Trent University in Ontario, lead author of the study, says that freezing conditions and food shortages overwhelmed Neanderthals between 40,000 and 35,000 years ago, dwindling their populations.

The study has also revealed that modern humans did not settle in Western Europe until much later than had been thought, contrasting the age-old belief that humans migrated to Europe from Africa about 40,000 years ago and quickly slaughtered their hairy, thickset cousins.

It instead supports the view that Neanderthals gave rise to the first modern humans in Europe.

Morin said that as Europe’s environment grew harsher, Neanderthal populations thinned out gradually, and some groups became extinct. He, however, added that surviving Neanderthals might have adapted themselves to climate stresses, and later developed characteristics similar to those of modern humans.

“Neanderthals adapted to this harsher climate by expanding their social networks, a process that allowed the diffusion of ‘modern traits’ into the Neanderthal gene pool,” National Geographic quoted him as saying.

Though Morin agrees that some humans might have migrated to Europe during that period, he does not think that it happened to “the large scale implied by many scholars”.

He said that such an influx would not have take place until about 10,000 years ago

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study of bones found at the French site also suggested a decrease in the variety of large mammals that prehistoric hunters would have targeted.

Morin said that this decrease indicated a rapidly cooling climate.

“About 40,000 years ago, the diversity of animals that could be hunted shrank severely, and that would have impacted human populations,” he said. (ANI)

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