Dying young did not cause Neanderthals' demise

Jan 10, 2011
A Neanderthal man ancestor's reconstruction. Dying young was not likely the reason Neanderthals went extinct, said a study out Monday that suggests early modern humans had about the same life expectancy as their hairier, ancient cousins.

Dying young was not likely the reason Neanderthals went extinct, said a study out Monday that suggests early modern humans had about the same life expectancy as their hairier, ancient cousins.

Scientists have puzzled over why the Neanderthals disappeared just as modern humans were making huge gains and moving into new parts of Africa and Europe, and some have speculated that a difference in longevity may have been to blame.

If anything, higher fertility rates and lower infant mortality gave modern humans an advantage over the Neanderthals, who died off about 30,000 years ago, said the study in the .

Scientist Erik Trinkaus of Washington University studied fossil records to get an idea of the of Neanderthals and early modern humans, who co-existed in different parts of the world for about 150,000 years.

He found about the same number of 20-40 year old adults in both populations, an indication that would reflect "similar patterns of adult mortality," said the study.

"All the samples have a dearth of older individuals, which should reflect a complex combination of low for adults, demographic instability, and the demands of mobility," he said.

"If indeed there was a demographic advantage for early modern humans, at least during transitional phases of Late Pleistocene , it must have been the result of increased fertility and/or reduced immature mortality."

The squat, low-browed lived in parts of Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East. Their last known refuge was Gibraltar.

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ubavontuba
2.8 / 5 (9) Jan 10, 2011
What evidence is there that Neanderthals were hairier? Seriously, who writes this stuff?
StillWind
3.7 / 5 (6) Jan 10, 2011
Yeah, these guys survived at least 600,000 years of some of the most extreme climate change the planet has ever seen, and some people still want to make them out to be inferior to us.
All the more ironinc when we consider that many today think that a 4 degree rise will wipe "us" out.
Jez_Ball
5 / 5 (3) Jan 10, 2011
I thought Neanderthals died out because they typically lived in groups of 10-20, whereas competing Homo Sapiens easily overwhelmed them with their groups of 50-100 individuals.
ubavontuba
3 / 5 (2) Jan 10, 2011
I thought Neanderthals died out because they typically lived in groups of 10-20, whereas competing Homo Sapiens easily overwhelmed them with their groups of 50-100 individuals.
That's the latest sociological hypothesis, anyway. It makes a lot of sense.

The comparison has been likened to chimpanzees and bonobos (humans being more like the sociable bonobos). Competition for limited resources in a harsh environment, combined with smaller groups, infighting, warfare with homosapiens, low birth rates, high infant mortality, and diseases spread by contact with homosapiens, makes extinction for them seem inevitable.

You can also compare it to the European invasion of America. The Europeans tended to congregate in larger groups, secure more resources, and so on... with all too nearly similar results.
RobertKarlStonjek
5 / 5 (1) Jan 10, 2011
Pathogens have come close to wiping out whole populations in modern times eg when 'moderns' meet 'primitive' populations. Pathogens are far more effective than a few hostile encounters; most of the land was unpopulated, so out breeding is hardly a convincing story.
Polestar
5 / 5 (1) Jan 16, 2011
Neanderthal's brains were larger than ours. Maybe when they saw us come along they said, "Oh Brother, there goes the neighborhood".