Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Neanderthal extinction mystery deepens

Why did Neanderthals go extinct while us humans lived on? It's not as simple as you think. Leading theories, which you may be thinking, include these: Neanderthals weren’t as smart as humans (so they couldn't adapt to climate change, their technology was inferior, etc.), their primary food source (big mammals) died out or perhaps they interbred with humans (to the point they disappeared as an independent species).

But according to evolutionary Clive Finlayson, none of these hold up. (
New Scientist) According to Finlayson, "there is no clear indication" that humans were smarter than Neanderthals. In fact, Neanderthals "share with humans key changes in Foxp2, a gene involved in speech and language." What's more, there is no clear-cut distinction between human and Neanderthal technology, evidence suggests Neanderthals "hunted smaller game and seafood, and sequencing of the Neanderthal genome "offers no sign that they contributed to our gene pool."

Previously on Pound360: Evidence discovered that
early man ate Neanderthals. And it looks like Neanderthals ate each other, too. Cannibalism is suspected to have played a part in their demise.

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.