Climate changes led to the extinction of early human species, says study

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on October 17, 2020 Published on October 17, 2020

Climate change is likely to have driven the early human species to extinction, according to a recent study reported in the journal One Earth.

The research combined climate modelling and the fossil record to find clues related to the extinction of different species of early humans including Homo species including H. habilis, H. ergaster, H. Erectus, H. heidelbergensis, H. neanderthalensis, and H. sapiens, as per an official release.

The findings suggest that the inability to adapt to climate change played a major role in their extinction. The researchers relied on a” high-resolution past climate emulator, which provides temperature, rainfall, and other data over the last 5 million years” for their data.

They also looked at an “extensive fossil database” hat contained over 2,750 archaeological records to model the evolution of Homo species’ climatic niche over time.

“The goal was to understand the climate preferences of those early humans and how they reacted to changes in climate,” the report said.

According to the study, Homo species — H. erectus, H. heidelbergensis, and H. neanderthalensis lost a major part of their climatic niche just before going extinct. This reduction coincided with sharp, unfavourable changes in the global climate.

“In the case of Neanderthals, things were likely made even worse by competition with H. sapiens,” the report added.

“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,” said Pasquale Raia of Università di Napoli Federico II in Napoli, Italy who was one of the lead researchers in the study. “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.”

“We were surprised by the regularity of the effect of climate change,” he added. “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.”

The lead researcher noted that, though there was some uncertainty in paleoclimatic reconstruction, the identification of fossil remains at the level of species, and the ageing of fossil sites, the main insights “hold true under all assumptions.”

“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. Climate change made Homo vulnerable and hapless in the past, and this may just be happening again,” he further said.

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Published on October 17, 2020
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