|MadSci Network: Evolution|
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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