One of the biggest mysteries in science is why there is only one kind of person in the world today. There were several in the past, and they often coexisted for considerable periods. These past human species are older ancestors of modern humans. Researchers now believe they know why our ancestors disappeared. Because they could not adapt to climate change, unlike them, past human species became extinct. homo sapiens .
Past human species that shared the planet
For thousands of years, there has been more than one human species roaming the earth. In fact, they often interbreed, which is why modern humans have genes from long-extinct human species. A group of Italian researchers decided to study why our ancestors disappeared from the face of the earth and why we are the only ones surviving.
Researchers write in One Earth that “at least six different species of homo inhabited the world during the latest Pliocene to Pleistocene.”
Stone tools and simple clothes were not enough to save past human species. ( ExQuisine / Adobe Stock)
Recreation of the prehistoric climate
Italian researchers have suggested that climate change plays a key role in the death of species such as Neanderthals. They all had a climatic niche, this is a climate for which they have successfully adapted. H. sapiens were included in the study to determine why they survived, unlike their relatives. Researchers have studied an extensive fossil database spanning more than a million years. They developed a climate emulator to create a model of past climatic conditions and how they have changed over 5 million years.
Climate change and the extinction of past human species
Using factor analysis, the experts were able to calculate how changes in temperature and precipitation affected the climatic niche of each species. For three species, H. heidelbergensis, H. erectus, and H. neanderthalensis , they found that “their climate niches shrank suddenly just before they disappeared,” One Earth reported.
This means that the climate has changed, making the environment challenging and they cannot adapt to the new environment. This contributed a lot to their disappearance. In the case of the Neanderthals, this is “even worse than the competition with H. sapiens,” according to Dr. Pasquale Raya of the University of Naples.
Neanderthals also had to compete with Homo sapiens. ( ginetigino / Adobe Stock)
The data from the climate simulator offer strong evidence that the three extinct Homo species were unable to cope with rising or cooling temperatures. Raya was quoted by Science Daily as saying, “We were surprised by the regularity of the effects of climate change.”
Although there is evidence based on the geographical distribution of the remains that archaic people have tried to move to a more favorable climate, they have not been able to adapt to the new conditions. Dr. Raya was quoted by The Independent as saying:
“It was crystal clear only to the extinct species and to them that the climatic conditions were too extreme just before the extinction and only at that particular moment.”
Why modern people survived
In One Earth, the study’s authors write that “Our results show striking differences in vulnerability between H. sapiens and significantly more vulnerable extinct species.” It seems that ours homo sapiens ancestors are less vulnerable to changes in the environment. They had a much wider climate niche, ie. be able to withstand and adapt to changing temperatures and environmental conditions. Their cognitive abilities and technologies, such as fire, meant that they could “mitigate the effects of climate change on their survival by effectively manipulating their own microclimate or moving quickly to settle in better conditions,” Edna said. Earth.
However, the study notes that climate change also often has a profound impact on H. sapiens and may again in the future. During rapid climate change, the results of a study on the disappearance of early humans are indeed appropriate. Dr Raya was quoted as saying by The Independent, who said: ‘It is alarming to find that our ancestors, who were no less impressive in terms of mental strength than other species on Earth, could not resist climate change. ”
Thunder warning message
Unlike in the past, current climate change is almost certainly linked to human activities. The Independent quoted Dr. Raya as saying, “I personally take this as a thunderous warning message.” Research shows that modern humans are as vulnerable as our ancient extinct relatives, such as Neanderthals, to climate change. We too may one day be as helpless as they are when their environment changes. Just because we have adapted successfully in the past does not mean that we can in the future.
Image above: Several past human species have become extinct due to climate change. Source: regis allouet / Adobe Stock
By Ed Whelan