Homo sapiens’ diseases may have wiped out Neandethals

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Neanderthals went extinct about 40,000 years ago. We’re not exactly sure what led to their demise, but climate change and competition over prey from Homo sapiens all may have played roles.

Another thing that may have helped kill off the Neanderthals in Europe? Infectious diseases, carried by humans who left Africa and made their way to Europe.

That’s according to researchers at Cambridge and Oxford Brookes universities who analyzed ancient DNA and pathogen genomes. They published their findings in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.


“Humans migrating out of Africa would have been a significant reservoir of tropical diseases,” lead author Charlotte Houldcroft of Cambridge’s Division of Biological Anthropology, said in a release. “For the Neanderthal population of Eurasia, adapted to that geographical infectious disease environment, exposure to new pathogens carried out of Africa may have been catastrophic.”

There’s no hard evidence so far showing that our ancestors passing these diseases on to Neanderthals. Rather, the researchers assert that the diseases must have been transferred, given the timeline and geography of human migration and what pathogen genomes tell us about the ancestry of disease. There’s also evidence showing that humans and Neanderthals interacted, and even mated, with each other at least 60,000 years ago.

Read full, original post: We may have doomed the Neanderthals with our nasty human diseases

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