Friday, December 11, 2015

What’s small, fluffy and a reason Neanderthals went extinct?

Researchers from the Bournemouth University in the U.K. earlier this year added a furry bit of evidence to this idea that Neanderthals were having a tougher time surviving in Europe than Homo sapiens and their numbers may have collapsed because of a simple fact:
They shunned rabbit meat.
Dr John Stewart, Associate Professor in Paleoecology and Environmental Change at Bournemouth University (BU), is part of a team which analysed data on rabbit bone remains, found in archaeological excavations of caves in the Iberian Peninsula. They found that while rabbits were a crucial part of the modern humans’ diet, they were relatively under-utilised by Neanderthals.
“Rabbits originated in Iberia and they are a very special kind of resource, in that they can be found in large numbers, they are relatively easy to catch and they are predictable,” said Dr Stewart. “This means that they are quite a good food source to target. The fact that the Neanderthals did not appear to do so suggests that this was a resource they did not have access to in the same way as modern humans.”
The fact that Neanderthals – typically associated with hunting large prey over short distances in woodland settings – were seemingly unable to catch and kill such creatures is compounded by rapid changes in the environment. “The climate was changing and the ecology was decreasing in terms of the amount of animals they were able to hunt,” Dr Stewart explained. “If Neanderthals were more tied to these large mammals, the loss of them could have driventhem to extinction.”

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