ASU study on Neanderthal extinction sparks interest
Paleoanthropologist Bence Viola of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, was “intrigued” by computational modeling done at Arizona State University that spanned 1,500 Neanderthal generations.
In the account “Sex With Humans Made Neanderthals Extinct?” published Nov. 25 online in National Geographic, Viola said, “From an archaeological and anthropological perspective, this sounds interesting and closer to what I believe – that you can have a lot of interbreeding. ...Normally the first groups who [encounter] a new population are men, hunting parties perhaps. And men, being the way they are – if they meet women from another population, there is bound to be interbreeding.”
The National Geographic story, written by Brian Handwerk, discussed research that examined evidence of how hominin groups evolved culturally and biologically in response to climate change during the last Ice Age. Findings, which will appear in the December issue of the journal Human Ecology, provide new insights into the extinction of Neanderthals.
In Handwerk’s coverage, he quoted ASU lead author, Michael Barton, a pioneer in the area of archaeological applications of computational modeling: “When endemic populations are specialized, and for some reason there is a change in their interaction with adjacent populations, and that interaction level goes up, they tend to go extinct – especially if one population is much smaller than the other.”
Viola is quoted saying: “Of course these are all things that are very hard to study archaeologically. …So these models are a great tool for investigating ideas.”
Read more about the research conducted by co-authors Barton, John Martin “Marty” Anderies and Gabriel Popescu, from ASU, and Julien Riel-Salvatore, from the University of Colorado Denver, at http://asunews.asu.edu/20111117_humanecology.
The National Geographic coverage is at http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/11/111125-neanderthals-sex-humans-dna-science-extinct.