Human migration may have doomed Neanderthals

Researchers have found new evidence that suggests the slow trickle of humans into Europe led to the Neanderthals.
By James Smith | Nov 07, 2017
Researchers from Stanford University have found evidence that Neanderthals died off as a result of steady human migration, according to a new paper released in the journal Nature Communications.

Neanderthals lived across both Europe and Asia until about 40,000 years ago when modern humans began to spread out of Africa.Though a lot is known about the species, nobody is quite sure what caused their demise. This new study could provide one of the first answers to that question.

In the research, scientists ran a computer simulation that looked at both ancient human and Neanderthal populations. It randomly chose some groups to go extinct and then replaced them with another randomly chosen population.

While none of the groups were assumed to have any advantage, the data showed that modern humans were supplemented by migrations pushing up out of Africa. In contrast, Neanderthals had no such reinforcements.That stream was not large, but the incoming bands were likely enough to give humans the edge over Neanderthals. In fact, the now-extinct species died-off in almost every simulation.

"It [survival] was rigged by the fact that there's recurring migration," said study author Oren Kolodny, a researcher at Stanford University, according toFox News. "The game was doomed to end with the Neanderthals losing."

The new finding is compelling, but, as such shifts are hard to locate in the fossil record, there is not a lot of evidence that such migrations took place. However, if they did occur they are likely the reason modern humans beat out Neanderthals in the long run.

The team hopes their study will help scientists figure out the different factors that led to the Neanderthal extinction. Many theories have been proposed over the years, but this is the first to explain the reason without assuming behavioral differences between Neanderthals and our ancestors. Such differences used to be the basis of the research, but they have been largely disproven since that time

"It's not that Neanderthals were these brutish, wide-shouldered, sort of advanced apes that roamed the land until we came over and beat them," added Kolodny, according to The Washington Post. "It's more that it was a companion hominin species that was very similar to us."

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