Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Why Neanderthals Went Extinct

From Vintage News:
Any parent can tell you that babies get ear infections; sometimes they get them often. That’s because a baby’s Eustachian tubes are at an angle that is relatively flat. As a result of the angle, otitis media bacteria tends to linger in them, rather than draining, and can cause infections. As human babies grow, and their heads get larger, their Eustachian tubes also grow, which changes the angle of their position and improves drainage. For humans, by the time a child starts school, the incidence of ear infections has reduced significantly.

For Neanderthals, the relatively flat angle of their Eustachian tubes remained unchanged into adulthood, meaning that they never lost the higher potential for ear infections. Furthermore, ear infections can easily lead to developing other complications, such as meningitis, respiratory infections, hearing loss, or even pneumonia. Unlike in the modern era, when such ailments can be easily addressed with antibiotics, for the Neanderthals, the potential for such infections and the complications that can come with them would be both lifelong and impossible to effectively treat.
Besides making it more likely that the sufferer may die of an infection, there would have been other, lifelong implications. People who are ill aren’t functioning at their best capacity, which impairs their ability to do the things they need to do to survive. Shortness of breath would be a serious barrier to being an effective hunter. The inability to hear a dangerous animal or enemy coming at you until it was nearby would significantly decrease your chances of making an effective defense or escape. Such indirect consequences would generally make it harder to effectively compete for resources against your rivals, including Homo sapiens.

Looked at from that perspective, it’s not that surprising that Homo sapiens won the contest. There are a couple of things that made this study so unique. One of them is that it gave researchers a totally unexpected insight into something that science has been puzzled by for a very long time. Another thing that’s fascinating is that something on such an enormous scale, the extinction of an entire species, could have been caused by something so small and unexpected. (Read more.)


Nancy Reyes said...

nonsense, of course. Neanderthals managed to live for hundreds of thousands of years in Europe, and then they died off from ear infections?
If this was true, they would have died out sooner, and of course, since those with this lethal anomalie would have died off, meaning genetically only those without it would have survived.
by the way: AmerIndians have a high rate of ear infections too, due to flattening of the head from cradle boards. But they managed to survive until smallpox and TB killed them off.
I suspect a similar "new" disease did the same for the Neanderthals.

elena maria vidal said...

Perhaps pneumonia, brought on by the Ice Age. Or it could have been come global climate changes killed off their game. It would be a great topic to study sometime.