Photo credit : CCO Public Domain

Climatic change might be the reason for the extinction of the early humans.

Out of the six or more various species of early humans, under the genus Homo, only we Homo sapiens survived. A study reported recently in the journal One Earth on October 15 incorporating climate modeling and the fossil record in exploration of indications to what led to all those earlier extinctions of our ancient ancestors implies that climate change. —

“Our findings show that despite technological innovations including the use of fire and refined stone tools, the formation of complex social networks, and—in the case of Neanderthals—even the production of glued spear points, fitted clothes, and a good amount of cultural and genetic exchange with Homo sapiens, past Homo species could not survive intense climate change,” says Pasquale Raia of Università di Napoli Federico II in Napoli, Italy. “They tried hard; they made for the warmest places in reach as the climate got cold, but at the end of the day, that wasn’t enough.”

To offer more insight on prior extinctions of Homo species including H. habilis, H. ergaster, H. erectus, H. heidelbergensis, H. neanderthalensis, and H. sapiens, the researchers banked on a high-resolution past climate emulator, which delivers temperature, rainfall, and other data over the last 5 million years. They observed a comprehensive fossil database extending more than 2,750 archaeological records to model the evolution of Homo species’ climatic niche over time.

Their researches give vital proof that three Homo species — H. erectus, H. heidelbergensis, and H. neanderthalensis— lost a crucial part of their climatic niche just before going extinct. They note that this reduction occurred simultaneously with sharp, adverse modifications in the global climate. In the case of Neanderthals, things were inclined to be more worse by competition with H. sapiens.

“We were surprised by the regularity of the effect of climate change,” Raia says. “It was crystal clear, for the extinct species and for them only, that climatic conditions were just too extreme just before extinction and only in that particular moment.”

Raia reports that there is skepticism in paleoclimatic reconstruction, the identification of fossil residues at the level of species, and the aging of fossil sites. But, he says, the major knowledge “hold true under all assumptions.” The outcomes may serve as an indication to humans today as we face phenomenal changes in the climate, Raia says.

“It is worrisome to discover that our ancestors, which were no less impressive in terms of mental power as compared to any other species on Earth, could not resist climate change,” he said. “And we found that just when our own species is sawing the branch we’re sitting on by causing climate change. I personally take this as a thunderous warning message. Climate change made Homo vulnerable and hapless in the past, and this may just be happening again.”


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