MadSci Network: Evolution

Subject: Did disease lead to the extinction of the Neanderthals?

Date: Wed May 5 01:31:05 1999
Posted by J Sechler
Grade level: teacher/prof School: none
City: Asheville State/Province: NC Country: USA
Area of science: Evolution
ID: 925885865.Ev

Modern humans of Eurasia & Africa had been seperated from the 
peoples of the Americas for only several thousand years;  
possibly less.  Whenever there was contact between these two 
groups, most of the natives of the Americas died of disease.
It would appear that the Neanderthals spent 100,000+ years in 
small groups, living in near artic conditions, seperated from
the hominids of Africa.  This would lead to a much greater loss
of genetically selected immunity to infectious organisms.  During
this time, pathogens would have time to evolve along with the 
other hominids.  When there were migrations of later hominids
out of Africa, they would bring these pathogens with them.  
During this time, the pathogens (viruses, bacteria, atypical 
bacteria) would have also evolved to be less virulent for their
African host.  The Neanderthals would have been decimated.  It 
would not have taken much competition from later early humans to 
finish them off. The Neanderthals might have even been "superior"
in many ways to early humans, but would have missed out on 
100,000+ years of the complex evolutionary biology between host 
and pathogen occurring in Africa. I believe that this is likely 
a major cause of the Neanderthal's rapid extinction.

Re: Did disease lead to the extinction of the Neanderthals?

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