To better understand the decline of Neanderthals, researchers in France have developed population models and used simulations to determine which demographic factors have the greatest influence on Neanderthal numbers.
His analysis, published in this week’s PLOS One magazine, shows a decline in birth rates, which is the most likely explanation for the loss of Neanderthals.
Scientists have previously suggested that the loss of Neanderthals can be well explained by destruction such as climate change or the spread of disease. However, due to limited empirical evidence, this hypothesis is difficult to verify.
Neanderthal remains show that hominin species have died for 4,000 to 10,000 years. To better understand this decline, the researchers built a model and conducted simulations to test the effects of survival, migration and fertility on public health.
This model is characterized by observations of modern hunting groups and by the decline of great apes regionally. The scientists also used paleogenic and empirical Neanderthal data to calibrate their population models.
Scientists carry out dozens of simulations, each with a different demographic scenario. The researchers believe the Neanderthal population disappeared when the total number of people fell below 5,000.
The model shows that a decrease in fertility of 2.7% of young Neanderthal women would cause the species to disappear for 10,000 years. An 8% reduction will cause an extinction of 4,000 years.
“This original approach is based on demographic modeling,” the researchers wrote. “The results show that a very small decrease in fertility can explain the loss of the Neanderthal population.” According to this study, this decline does not apply to all female Neanderthals, but only to the youngest.
Recent studies do not prove that a decrease in fertility kills Neanderthals, but the model shows little change in demography, not the disaster needed to explain the loss of species.