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Did climate change doom Neanderthals?

Busy day. Quick link for you via Discovery News:

When climate took a turn toward the cold tens of thousands of years ago, both Neanderthals and early humans started traveling further distances to find food, found a new study.
[…]
The study also hints at what’s to come if climate change forces modern cultures to blend, as their homes become inhospitable from drought, flooding or severe weather.

“We are increasingly finding evidence of sophisticated behavior among Neanderthals, and now the question is: If they were so smart, why did they become extinct?” said Michael Barton, an anthropologist at Arizona State University in Tempe.

“Our answer is that they became extinct because they were so smart, not in spite of it,” he said. “They were doing what everyone else was doing, and how they dealt with worldwide environmental change made their population and probably other endemic populations disappear.”

A portent of what’s to come? Certainly changing climate would affect us differently this time around, since it’s toward the hotter end of the spectrum, not the colder.

Comments

  1. says

    It’s “portent” & “effect”. I mention this because I wondered if you’ve noticed that “affect” & “effect” are losing their distinction on the www? The difference: When one affects a situation, one has an effect on it.

  2. says

    Portent yes, because “portend” would be the verb form. But something “affects” us, by having “an effect”.

    I do notice that that’s pretty much universally gotten wrong anywhere you see it on the ‘tubes. But I’m pretty sure that, unless this is a border case I’m unaware of, I have it right this time around.

  3. says

    I think that anthropologists have been debating the question of whether Neanderthals were pushed into extinction by Homo sapiens or whether they were absorbed by interbreeding for decades. Right now the evidence seems to tilt toward the latter, but it’s hard to say whether that conclusion will hold up or not.

  4. says

    I have a hypothesis, though as a layman I have no idea how to prove it. I think the problem with Neanderthals is that there just weren’t enough of them to come up with good ideas for survival. If their numbers were greater, they’d probably still be around today, or we’d have wiped each other out in a nasty war.

  5. klem says

    No Jason. The Neanderthals themselves caused the climate to change through the burning of dried mastadon dung, this activity released copious quantities of the devil CO2 into atmosphere. Surely you don’t believe the climate changed naturally. Natural climate change ‘good’. Human caused climate change ‘bad’. Logically it had to be the Neanderthals.

    BTW, Durban will be the biggest failure of all of the climate summits. Its going to be such a bomb, I’ve got my beer and popcorn ready for this one. Wahoo!

    cheers

  6. jakc says

    Wasn’t sure if Klem was being sarcastic or just stupid. Guess we’re leaning toward stupid. BrianX, the small number of Neanderthals is why they disappeared though not because of extinction. Rather, as Paul S points out, the Neanderthals – to my old multi-regionalist mind better thought of as a subspecies – were re-absorbed into the main branch of H Sapiens with the end of climate-caused isolation. Last estimates I’ve seen put Neanderthal genes at about 2.5% of our modern genome, an indication of the relatively small number of Neanderthals. It wasn’t so much that their were too few to think of good ideas, but too few to … Well, I think you can figure it out.

  7. klem says

    That’s it? That’s the best you can do?

    Oh man, what happened to this blog?

    I might have to troll somewhere else if this keeps up.

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