Science and Nature :
Researchers now believe that they may have established why the Neanderthals became extinct. Expert analysts using population models believe that inbreeding and the internal dynamics of their small populations resulted in their demise. This research could mean that modern humans did not directly cause the extinction of the species of archaic humans.
The research was undertaken by a group at the University of Eindhoven, in the Netherlands and it sought to test if ‘the internal dynamics that operate in small populations’ led to the demise of theNeanderthalsaccording to the study published inPLOS ONE. This was to establish if their decline was due to demographic factors andtheir mating behaviors. It appears that the global population of the species was very small and ‘was in the range of a mere 5,000–70,000 individuals’ reportsPLOS ONE.
Science and Nature : Inbreeding and demographic decline
The team used statistical tools to estimate why theNeanderthalsdied out. According toThe Daily Mail, ‘the researchers modeled how their populations might have fared over 10,000 years’. To make their findings more reliable they also based their analysis on modernhuman hunter-gatheringgroups. They ‘ran population simulations for Neanderthal societies of various starting sizes (from 50 individuals to 100, 500, 1,000, or 5,000)’ according toScience Alert.
Male and female Homo neanderthalensis in the Neanderthal Museum, Mettmann, Germany. (UNiesert/Frank Vincentz/ CC BY SA 3.0 )
They first tested their population simulations with the factor of inbreeding. This can lead to an unhealthy population andPLOS ONLINEreports that they ‘had at least 40% lower fitness than modern humans on average’. According to the researchers’ findings, it played a significant role in the extinction of the archaic species of humans.
Science and Nature : Allee Effect
The second factor, they tested is the biological phenomenon, known as theAllee effect. This is where a small population does not reproduce itself because of an inability to secure enough resources and limited choice of mates. Small populations are inherently disadvantaged when it comes to surviving inharsh environmentssuch as the one inhabited by the Neanderthals.
The researchers, based on their models found that the Allee effect was apparent, over time. Based on the University of Eindhoven’s statistical modeling this ‘could have caused extinctions in populations of up to 1000 individuals’ reportsThe Daily Mail.This means that the natural attrition experienced by small populati