ISSN 1662-4009 (online)

ESPE Yearbook of Paediatric Endocrinology (2021) 18 14.13 | DOI: 10.1530/ey.18.14.13

One Earth, Volume 3, Issue 4, 23 October 2020, Pages 480-490

By integrating past climate and fossil databases, these authors suggest that climate change was the primary factor in the extinction of Homo species.

Homo erectus, H. heidelbergensis and H. neanderthalensis all became extinct. Why? And are we going that way too? The authors claim that climate change drove those species to extinction. Climate change is happening again, with possible drastic consequences to the modern human race.

The authors used a recently implemented past climate emulator (a statistical modelling approach) and an extensive fossil database spanning 2754 archaeological records to model climatic niche evolution in Homo species. Homo erectus lived about 2 million years ago in Africa, throughout Eurasia, the Iberian Peninsula and Java, and became extinct ~117 000–108 000 years ago. H. heidelbergensis lived in China, Spain and Zambia and became extinct 200 000 years ago. H. neanderthalensis disappeared from Europe ~40 000 years ago. All three Homo species lost their climatic niche space just before extinction. These extinctions coincided with increased vulnerability to climate change. In the case of Neanderthals, this pressure added the effect of competition with H. sapiens even though they formed complex social networks, domesticated the fire, refined stone tools to make spear points, fitted clothes and inter-hanged with H. sapiens. Climate change and the incompetence to face it was such a major player that it overrode all the other evolutionary pressures.

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