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Falling fertility may be behind neanderthal extinction: study



Washington (AFP) – A small reduction in the fertility of younger women over thousands of years could constitute the extermination of the ancient human species, according to a study published in the PLOS ONE on Wednesday. [19659002] Our closest human relatives lived throughout Europe between about 400,000 to 40,000 years ago, their disappearance coinciding with the arrival of Homo sapiens on the continent.

But the causes of disappearance have remained a mystery: Were they massacred by our ancestors? The victims of a mass epidemic? Or did they slowly die against competition for resources from a more skilled nature?

Researchers in Frank's CNRS developed a mathematical model that would simulate scenarios during which Neanderthals were released for 10,000 years or less – the timeline that is consistent with current best estimates arrived by scientists.

They created parameters for factors such as survival, migration, and fertility rates based on observation data from modern hunter-collector groups and large monkeys, as well as available data on neanderthal from previous paleo-genetic studies.

This led them to conclude that certain hypotheses about Neanderthals extinction, such as The increase in infant or adult mortality associated with disease epidemics or warfare was unlikely.

"It would bring about a disappearance that was too fast," Silvana Condemi, an anthropologist from Aix-Marseille University and a co-author of the study, told AFP.

"On the other hand, a very small dip in the fertility rate of young women is compatible with the known time-frame for extinction," she continued.

"This reduction only needs to be very small, but would suffice for a long time enough to lead to Neanderthals disappearance."

Perhaps Homo sapiens arrived at progressive food tensions at Neanderthal.

"A reduction in food and therefore calories is harmful to pregnancies," says Condemi.

But the authors emphasized their purpose was not to explain "why" the Neanderthals disappeared, but "how."

As long as the fossil record remains scarce, the answer to why young female Neanderthals began to have fewer babies will remain an area of ​​debate.


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