Neanderthals Were Dying Out Before Humans Arrived
Neanderthals in Western Europe started disappearing long before Homo sapiens showed up, suggesting that cold weather, and not cold-hearted humans, might have been responsible for the species’ ultimate demise. The findings, published in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution, suggest that at least one population of Neanderthals was vulnerable to climate change.
The researchers found that Neanderthals from Western Europe, Asia and the Middle East that were older than 50,000 years showed a high degree of genetic variation, on par with what might be expected from a species that had been abundant in those areas for a long period of time. But Neanderthals from Western Europe younger than 50,000 years ago showed an extremely reduced amount of genetic variation. The scientists believe this means the earlier population of Neanderthals there was dwindling.