January 11, 2011

Neandertals did not go extinct due to climate or starvation

Journal of Anthropological Archaeology doi:doi:10.1016/j.jaa.2010.12.003

Demography and the extinction of European Neanderthals

Bent Sørensen et al.

Abstract
Causes previously suggested for the sudden extinction of Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) in Europe, starting around 35,000 years ago, comprise food shortage, climatic effects and violence from Modern Humans. The aim here is to formulate a demographic model with reconstructed fertility and death rates, capable of modelling the population development under conditions of changing climate and prey availability, from the early appearance of Neanderthals in Europe about 260,000 years ago to their demise. Parameter variation studies are made for the parameters considered to have the highest uncertainty. Finally, the option of regional migration between northern, middle and southern Europe is added, in order to capture population movements away from a region in response to deteriorating or improving climate. This model accounts for population developments, including the re-population of the Middle and Northern regions of Europe during and after the warm Eem period. However, parameter choices that give plausible results during the initial 210,000 years also predict that the Neanderthals should have survived the latter part of the Weichselian ice age, despite competing for food with Modern Human newcomers during the last part of the period. The conclusion is that other reasons for extinction than climate or starvation must be sought.

Link

6 comments:

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

"Causes previously suggested for the sudden extinction of Neanderthals . . . comprise food shortage, climatic effects and violence from Modern Humans. . . . The conclusion is that other reasons for extinction than climate or starvation must be sought."

Possibilities other than genocide at the hands of modern humans aren't looking very likely, are they?

emir-sergei said...

I guess what they mean by this "politically correct" expression is that they were killed out by Modern Humans...

pconroy said...

There's no need for them to be "Killed" by Moderns at all!

All you need is range contraction and assimilation due to interbreeding with moderns. The replacement of Neanderthals in Europe happened over a few thousand years, if it had been all out war, why would it have taken so long.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

"All you need is range contraction and assimilation due to interbreeding with moderns."

If assimilation due to interbreeding with moderns replaced the lot of them, then you would have either very large Upper Paleolithic modern human populations, or very high levels of admixture into that population, and you also need almost total replacement of pre-LGM hunter-gatherers from a population genetic perspective to explain the relative uniformity of Neanderthal autosomal DNA contributions in Eurasia. And, if interbreeding and assimilation were as seemless as you suggest, as opposed to isolated and possibly influenced by Haldane's Rule, one would expect Neanderthal NYR and mtDNA that don't exist.

Strat said...

Putting the results of this study, the study of the previous thread and Green et al. 2010 together, one conclusion seems inevitable: that the most likely scenario for the Neandertal extinction is their genocide at the hands of modern humans.

pconroy said...

Andrew,

US Whites have a few percent Native American DNA through admixture, and Native Americans were on their way to extinction until recently. The main reason for this was disease susceptibility among Native Americans. It's well documented that as settlers moved in from the coast they found what they perceived to be virgin forest, when in actuality it had been Native American farmland a few hundred years before.