Topic ID #31823 - posted 3/18/2014 1:13 AM

Why did humans replace Neanderthals? Paleo diet didn't change, the climate did



Jennifer Palmer

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Why did humans replace Neanderthals? Paleo diet didn't change, the climate did
Date:March 17, 2014 Source: Universitaet Tübingen

Why were Neanderthals replaced by anatomically modern humans around 40,000 years ago? One popular hypothesis states that a broader dietary spectrum of modern humans gave them a competitive advantage on Neanderthals. Geochemical analyses of fossil bones seemed to confirm this dietary difference. Indeed, higher amounts of nitrogen heavy isotopes were found in the bones of modern humans compared to those of Neanderthals, suggesting at first that modern humans included fish in their diet while Neanderthals were focused on the meat of terrestrial large game, such as mammoth and bison.

However, these studies did not look at possible isotopic variation of nitrogen isotopes in the food resource themselves. In fact, environmental factors such as aridity can increase the heavy nitrogen isotope amount in plants, leading to higher nitrogen isotopic values in herbivores and their predators even without a change of subsistence strategy. A recent study published in Journal of Human Evolution by researchers from the University of Tübingen (Germany) and the Musée national de Préhistoire in Les Eyzies-de-Tayac (France) revealed that the nitrogen isotopic content of animal bones, both herbivores, such as reindeer, red deer, horse and bison, and carnivores such as wolves, changed dramatically at the time of first occurrence of modern humans in southwestern France.


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