Paleoanthropology

Modeling Neandertal extinction

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Science  04 Mar 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6277, pp. 1039-1040
DOI: 10.1126/science.351.6277.1039-d

The extinction of Neandertals in Europe is commonly thought to have been the result of competition with modern humans. Gilpin et al. test this possibility mathematically, with a model that explores the interaction between the level of cultural development and population size. The model confirms that differences in cultural level can lead to competitive exclusion of a larger population by a smaller one. An advantage in learning ability, for example, would ensure that modern humans replaced Neandertals, even though the initial discrepancy in population size was large. Although the reality of the Neandertal demise is likely to have been more complex (for example, there may have been cultural exchange between Neandertals and modern humans as well as competition), these models affirm the likelihood that cultural sophistication held sway.

Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 10.1073/pnas.1524861113 (2016).

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