Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Archeologists Investigate Ice Age Hominins Adaptability to Climate Change

18.11.2011
Complex computational modeling provides clues to Neanderthal extinction

Computational modeling that examines evidence of how hominin groups evolved culturally and biologically in response to climate change during the last Ice Age also bears new insights into the extinction of Neanderthals. Details of the complex modeling experiments conducted at Arizona State University and the University of Colorado Denver will be published in the December issue of the journal Human Ecology, available online Nov. 17.

“To better understand human ecology, and especially how human culture and biology co-evolved among hunter-gatherers in the Late Pleistocene of Western Eurasia (ca. 128,000-11,500 years ago) we designed theoretical and methodological frameworks that incorporated feedback across three evolutionary systems: biological, cultural and environmental,” said Michael Barton, a pioneer in the area of archaeological applications of computational modeling at Arizona State University.

“One scientifically interesting result of this research, which studied culturally and environmentally driven changes in land-use behaviors, is that it shows how Neanderthals could have disappeared not because they were somehow less fit than all other hominins who existed during the last glaciation, but because they were as behaviorally sophisticated as modern humans,” said Barton, who is lead author of the published findings.

The paper “Modeling Human Ecodynamics and Biocultural Interactions in the Late Pleistocene of Western Eurasia” is co-authored by Julien Riel-Salvatore, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Colorado Denver; John Martin “Marty” Anderies, an associate professor of computational social science at ASU in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change and the School of Sustainability; and Gabriel Popescu, an anthropology doctoral student in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at ASU.

“It’s been long believed that Neanderthals were outcompeted by fitter modern humans and they could not adapt,” said Riel-Salvatore. “We are changing the main narrative. Neanderthals were just as adaptable and in many ways, simply victims of their own success.”

The interdisciplinary team of researchers used archeological data to track behavioral changes in Western Eurasia over a period of 100,000 years and showed that human mobility increased over time, probably in response to environmental change. According to Barton, the last Ice Age saw hunter-gathers, including both Neanderthals and the ancestors of modern humans, range more widely across Eurasia searching for food during a major shift in the Earth’s climate.

The scientists utilized computer modeling to explore the evolutionary consequences of those changes, including how changes in the movements of Neanderthals and modern humans caused them to interact – and interbreed – more often.

According to Riel-Salvatore, the study offered further evidence that Neanderthals were more flexible and resourceful than previously assumed.

“Neanderthals had proven that they could roll with the punches and when they met the more numerous modern humans, they adapted again,” Riel-Salvatore said. “But modern humans probably saw the Neanderthals as possible mates. As a result, over time, the Neanderthals died out as a physically recognizable population.”

To reach their conclusion, the researchers ran a computer program for the equivalent of 1,500 generations showing that as Neanderthals and modern humans expanded their yearly ranges, the Neanderthals were slowly absorbed by more numerous modern humans until they had disappeared as a recognizable population.

“We tested the modeling results against the empirical archaeological record and found that there is evidence that Neanderthals, and moderns, did adapt their behaviors in the way in which we modeled,” explained Barton. “Moreover, the modeling predicts the kind of low-level genetic admixture of Neanderthal genes that are being found in the newest genetic studies just now being published.

“In other words, successful behavioral adaptations to severe environmental conditions made Neanderthals, and other non-moderns about whom we know little, vulnerable to biological extinction, but at the same time, ensured they made a genetic contribution to modern populations,” Barton said.

The authors noted that “the methods we illustrate here offer a robust, new framework in which researchers can begin to examine the effects that such invisible characteristics could have on the observable record.”

“The kind of modeling we did in this research is very new in paleoanthropology, as is the continental scope of the archaeological analysis we used to test the model results,” noted Barton.

“However, such computational modeling can refine our understanding of long-term human impact on the environment that can help inform land-use decisions for our future,” said Barton, who also is co-director of ASU’s Center for Social Dynamics and Complexity, which leverages the emerging field of complex systems to foster interdisciplinary research on fundamental questions of social life.

The research presented in Human Ecology was supported in part by the National Science Foundation, a Fulbright Senior Research Fellowship and a Fulbright Graduate Student Fellowship.

REFERENCE:
Barton CM et al. (2011) Modeling Human Ecodynamics and Biocultural Interactions in the Late Pleistocene of Western Eurasia. Human Ecology. DOI 10.1007/s10745-011-9433-8
About Arizona State University
Arizona State University is the largest public research university in the United States under a single administration, with total student enrollment of more than 72,000 in metropolitan Phoenix, the nation’s sixth-largest city. ASU is creating a new model for American higher education, an unprecedented combination of academic excellence, entrepreneurial energy and broad access. Its research is inspired by real world application, blurring the boundaries that traditionally separate academic disciplines. ASU champions intellectual and cultural diversity, and welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 100 nations across the globe. More at http://newamericanuniversity.asu.edu.
About the University of Colorado Denver
The University of Colorado Denver offers more than 120 degrees and programs in 13 schools and colleges and serves more than 28,000 students. CU Denver is located on the Denver Campus and the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, Colo. For more information, visit the CU Denver Newsroom, http://www.ucdenver.edu/about/newsroom/Pages/Newsroom.aspx.
SOURCES:
Arizona State University (www.asu.edu)
C. Michael Barton, Michael.Barton@asu.edu
University of Colorado Denver (www.ucdenver.edu)
Julien Riel-Salvatore, julien.riel-salvatore@ucdenver.edu
MEDIA CONTACTS:
Arizona State University
Carol Hughes, carol.hughes@asu.edu
480-965-6375 direct line | 480-254-3753 cell
University of Colorado Denver
David Kelly, david.kelly@ucdenver.edu
303-315-6374 direct line
Journal Human Ecology, published by Springer (www.springer.com)
Joan Robinson, Joan.Robinson@springer.com
+49-6221-4878130 (Germany)

Carol Hughes | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.asu.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht NASA eyes Pineapple Express soaking California
24.02.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht 'Quartz' crystals at the Earth's core power its magnetic field
23.02.2017 | Tokyo Institute of Technology

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

New risk factors for anxiety disorders

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

MWC 2017: 5G Capital Berlin

24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>