How did Neanderthals become extinct

Evolution of mankind: Did the Neanderthals just die out?

The Neanderthals were intelligent, robust and very well adapted to their environment - and then suddenly became extinct. The reason for the fatal decline is controversial among researchers, but a prominent thesis gives us the name homo sapiens as the cause: Advancing, somehow technologically or culturally superior modern humans would have overtaken the comparatively small Neanderthal population in Europe and elsewhere, displaced and - not ruled out occasional smacking - finally exterminated. Perhaps, under somewhat happier circumstances, things could have turned out completely different, proponents of a different point of view like Krist Vaesen from the Eindhoven University of Technology in the journal »PLOS«. They assume: The Neanderthals simply had demographic bad luck; because at the crucial moment there just weren't enough of them.

In their study, Vaesen and Co simulated various scenarios of population development with computer help: They started with founding groups of different sizes of 50, 100, 500, 1000 or 5000 individuals and modeled how such groups develop in the following generations. In doing so, they included typical influencing factors that have been shown to have an impact on the fate of initially very small populations: the harmful effect of inbreeding, the avenue effect, which condemns too small, isolated populations below a minimum size to failure, and other confounding variables that cause the Stochastically influencing the demographics of a group - random factors that shape the development of a population through births, deaths and the gender ratio.

The result of the simulations was revealing if one takes into account the number of actually existing Neanderthals - estimates assume at least 5000, at most 70,000 individuals: There were in any case too few of them, so that their species alone Due to the adverse demographic circumstances included in the calculation, it would have died out within around 10,000 years. And this completely regardless of whether the homo sapiens would have made it through the Neanderthal regions or not. Fed up with realistic numbers, the simulation predicts what actually happened when things stand. A scenario in which a small group survives for several thousand years, but can collapse at any time - and then suddenly does.

As I said, the influence of immigrant modern people is not factored in - and the study cannot therefore rule out that it may have had an additional effect. It is noticeable that homo sapiens apparently not only gouged out the Neanderthals, but all other species of the human family bush, as Jean-Jacques Hublin, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, points out on Twitter:

Homo sapiens did not replace only Neandertals but every single other form of hominins. The main reasons of this process are most likely to be found on its side.

- Jean-Jacques Hublin (@jjhublin) November 28, 2019

In fact, the contact between modern humans and Neanderthals did not remain without consequences for us, as the Neanderthal genes in our genome show. For Neanderthals, however, things may have been different - and it is conceivable that sex with us would have significantly more disadvantages for them; Among other things, because the number of mating partners increased with immigrating modern humans, but the chance of Neanderthals dwindling - which further endangered an already small population. Their fate was sealed, according to the study by Vaesen and Co, apparently even beforehand. In the end, what remains of them - after all - is an interesting genetic testimony to intimate contacts interspersed in the human genome.