London, November 9 (ANI): A scientist has suggested that the Neanderthals might have gone extinct because of a deadly combination of bad luck and climate change.
According to a report in New Scientist, the scientist in question is evolutionary ecologist Clive Finlayson.
The Neanderthals, a race of cavemen who ruled Europe and Asia, mysteriously vanished between 28,000 and 24,000 years ago.
Since the discovery of the first Neanderthal bones in Belgium in 1829, anthropologists have proposed any number of explanations for their extinction.
Some said Neanderthals were too dim-witted to survive climatic upheaval or the arrival of our ancestors from Africa.
Others contended that their diet - big mammals that were also becoming rare - did them in, while Homo sapiens's more catholic diet gave them the edge to survive.
Some even argued that Neanderthals didn't go extinct at all, but interbred with H. sapiens.
"None of these just-so stories quite add up," Finlayson said.
There is no clear indication that Neanderthals were any less intelligent than H. sapiens, and genetic evidence has shown that they share with humans key changes in Foxp2, a gene involved in speech and language.
Finlayson argues that it was a deadly combination of bad luck and climate change that caused the demise of the Neanderthals.
They were a species caught in the wrong place at the wrong time in a rapidly changing world, he said.
"By the time the classic Neanderthals had emerged, they were already a people doomed to extinction," he said.
A series of ice ages ate away the forest habitats where Neanderthals and their predecessors, Homo heidelbergensis, made a living sneaking up on big game.
As their numbers declined, those who remained took refuge in warmer parts of Europe, nearer the Mediterranean.
But, a final drop in temperatures that began around 50,000 years ago made even this meager living unsustainable.
Finlayson does not rule out the possibility that Neanderthals and H. sapiens met. Neanderthals, our ancestors and other archaic human species probably overlapped.
But such contact was unlikely to play a pivotal part in the Neanderthal's disappearance and our dominance, which Finlayson chalks up largely to luck. (ANI)