Thursday, February 22, 2007

Jablonksi on birth rate, competition, and hominid extinctions

I don't know how this happened, but ever since my monday map on the ice age, I've run across several papers or reports discussing or mentioning the ice's another:
via the TAMU Anthro in the News, there's this writeup called "Birth rate, competition are major players in hominid extinctions" about a talk by Nina Jablonki at the AAAS meetings.

some of the more interesting excerpts:

Primates evolved in the Paleocene and Eocene when worldwide climate was less seasonal. The beneficial environment allowed primates to evolve as relatively brainy animals that reproduce slowly. However, when climate changed so that tropical forests shrunk and the environment became patchy, many species including primate species became extinct.

"We find that the early members of the genus Homo who succeeded were super ecological opportunists," says Jablonski. "They would eat vegetation and scavenge, kill small animals and forage."

regarding Neanderthals:

Leading up to and during the last glacial maximum about 18,000 years ago, the grassy plains disappeared, taking with them the animals that relied on large expanses of grass for grazing. These animals were the prime food source for Neandertal...
At the same time, modern Homo sapiens experienced the same reduction in large animal game, but switched to also fishing, snaring small mammals like rabbits and capturing turtles and birds.

"Rather than being a specialized large mammal predator, modern humans would eat anything they could get their hands on. They eked out a living even if it meant eating grasshoppers or whatever," says Jablonski. "Even with this, modern humans barely hung on from 12 to 16,000 years ago.

"Why did Neandertal not adapt culturally?" she asks. "Why did they not start eating bunnies? They did begin fishing."

Jablonski believes that competition from modern humans was already too strong. The environment was marginal and modern humans were already foraging and small-animal collecting.

"I think they were out-competed at the very end," says Jablonski. "Modern humans simply did it better, more nimbly."

A lot of this contradicts what was said in the paper I posted on a couple of days ago said, notably that moderns had projectile technology that allowed them to hunt big game more efficiently than Neanderthals.

No comments:

Locations of visitors to this page