Climate Change Delivered the Death Blow to Neanderthals

NeanderthalClimate change has detrimental real world consequences. Just ask the Neanderthals. Oopps! They’re extinct and a new study argues climate change hastened their extinction.

In the case of the Neanderthals, it was global cooling and not global warming that did in this subspecies of human in the genus Homo that became extinct between 40,000 and 28,000 years ago, said a new study published in Journal of Human Evolution.

A team led by Dr. Jamei Hodgkins, a zooarchaeologist at the University of Colorado Denver, found evidence that during colder periods, Neanderthals worked harder to remove meat and marrow from bones of animals they had slaughtered than they did during warm periods.

She said this seems to indicate Neanderthals struggled to get enough calories during periods when the climate was colder. This conclusion supports existing theories that changes in the climate (most probably caused by a massive volcanic eruption) led to the extinction of the Neanderthals 40,000 years ago.

This eruption apparently caused temperatures to fall by 1 to 2 degrees. As a result, ice and snow spread further south to Neanderthal homelands that had been previously snow free.

“Our research uncovers a pattern showing that cold, harsh environments were stressful for Neanderthals,” said Dr. Hodgkins.

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