The bones of more than 400 Neanderthals have been found since the first discoveries were made in the early 19th century. The finds suggest the Neanderthals, named after the Neander Valley near Düsseldorf, where they were first recognized as an extinct kind of archaic humans, inhabited Europe and parts of western Asia for more than 100,000 years.
The causes of their extinction have puzzled scientists for years – with some believing it was due to competition with modern humans, while others blamed deteriorating climatic conditions. But a new study published today in Nature has shown that the Neanderthal extinction did not coincide with any of the extreme climate events that punctuated the last glacial period.
The research was led by Professor Chronis Tzedakis, a palaeoecologist at the University of Leeds, who explained: “Until now, there have been three limitations to understanding the role of climate in the Neanderthal extinction: uncertainty over the exact timing of their disappearance; uncertainties in converting radiocarbon dates to actual calendar years; and the chronological imprecision of the ancient climate record.”
The team’s novel method – mapping radiocarbon dates of interest directly onto a well-dated palaeoclimate archive – circumvented the last two problems, providing a much more detailed picture of the climate at the possible times of the Neanderthal disappearance.
The researchers applied the new method to three alternative sets of dates for the timing of the Neanderthal extinction from Gorham’s Cave, Gibraltar, a site which is thought to have been occupied by some of the latest surviving Neanderthals:•a set of generally accepted but older dates (around 30-32,000 radiocarbon years ago)
The much more controversial date of around 24,000 radiocarbon years ago placed the last Neanderthals just before a large expansion of ice sheets and the onset of cold conditions in northern Europe. “But at that time, Gibraltar’s climate remained relatively unaffected, perhaps as a result of warm water from the subtropical Atlantic entering the western Mediterranean,” explained palaeoceanographer Isabel Cacho of the University of Barcelona.
“Our findings suggest that there was no single climatic event that caused the extinction of the Neanderthals,” concludes palaeonthropologist Katerina Harvati of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. “Only the controversial date of 24,000 radiocarbon years for their disappearance, if proven correct, coincides with a major environmental shift. Even in this case, however, the role of climate would have been indirect, by promoting competition with other human groups.”
The work also has wider implications for other studies, as paleoclimatologist Konrad Hughen of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution explained: “Our approach offers the huge potential to unravel the role of climate in critical events of the recent fossil record as it can be applied to any radiocarbon date from any deposit.”
Simon Jenkins | alfa
Fingerprint' technique spots frog populations at risk from pollution
27.03.2017 | Lancaster University
Parallel computation provides deeper insight into brain function
27.03.2017 | Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) Graduate University
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
27.03.2017 | Earth Sciences
27.03.2017 | Life Sciences
27.03.2017 | Life Sciences