AST in the Beginning – Homo Neanderthalensis and Population

I’ve just seen a doc that says where they were digging in France, that the cave had been empty of Neanderthals two thousand years before Homo Sapiens arrived, and in attempting to explain it, they said that the entire Neanderthal population in Europe was only estimated to have been in the thousands. They said that we simply overwhelmed them with numbers and absorbed them, outbred them by an order of magnitude.

I think someone said the Homo Sapiens “were able to reproduce faster,” which, what do you suppose that means? “Able to reproduce,” indeed! Then I suppose we’re all extinct, out-competed by rats. But that seemed like a question that wanted an answer to me, and here’s my guess: ‘able’ to breed isn’t it. It’s that we’re compelled to, and maybe they weren’t, so much.

I’m recalling something a friend of mine pointed out to me, some years ago, that when anyone suggests that war is the human method of keeping our own population in control, that they’ve got it backwards. In fact, accelerated breeding is an evolved response to threats to the population, like famine or war, something that increases our genes’ odds of survival and replication. Keeping this in mind when pondering antisocialization, one can see what a powerful bio-feedback loop that might be. We pre-configure ourselves for war, and war triggers a never-ending baby boom.

Maybe the Neanderthal didn’t self-antisocialize, but this doc suggested we shared the landscape and that a species war probably never occurred. If we consider our aboriginal social situation, the family group, in competition with other groups – it would seem that the species of the other group might not matter; they’re all competitors, all enemies during war, and I imagine, equally tolerated in peacetime too. Homo Sapiens probably didn’t treat the Neanderthal better than modern Europeans have treated indigenous peoples the world over in modern times, but the idea of a clear species war sounds a little too organized for those times, forty to fifty thousand years ago.

So. That’s what AST was able to glean out of that prehistoric meeting, out of me learning about the Neanderthal’s theorized light carbon footprint, me learning that not all human groups bred at the same rate.

Just spitballing. Let’s keep it in mind.

 

Jeff

Oct. 26th., 2016

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6 thoughts on “AST in the Beginning – Homo Neanderthalensis and Population

  1. Benjamin David Steele April 1, 2017 / 7:40 am

    The human species seems prone to f*ck anything that moves. Several hominid species didn’t go extinct. Humans simply mated with them so much that they were absorbed into our genetics, no longer being a separate species. We modern humans are actually hybrids. Maybe there was an advantage to that hybridization, a reason the mixing of genetics spread around the entire world.

    The common method of dominance for humans doesn’t appear to be war but breeding. That is what happened to hunter-gatherers. Farming people simply grew into such larger numbers that they overwhelmed the hunter-gatherers and absorbed them.

    This partly has to do with food sources. A grain-based diet causes humans to reach sexual maturity at a younger age. Hunter-gatherers, on the other hand, don’t reach sexual maturity until their late teens. Agrarian/agricultural societies mate younger, possibly having several babies before hunter-gatherers even get started.

    It would be interesting to know what might have caused the difference in breeding rates between homo sapiens and neanderthals. Both species had their own cultures before they met, each already having separately invented tool-making, art, music, burying the dead, etc. Neanderthals even had the biology that would have made speaking possible and they had larger brains than homo sapiens.

    The main thing, I suspect, is that humans had a more basic advantage. Humans evolved in a warmer area. When the entire planet began warming after the Ice Age, neanderthals were at a disadvantage, as their preferred environment was shrinking. It really might have been that simple. The neanderthals who survived were those who began hybridizing with humans and some of those neanderthal genetics probably were useful to humans moving into Eurasia.

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    • Jeff/neighsayer April 1, 2017 / 4:24 pm

      well, I have yet to hear if anyone thinks that humans generally evolved from our common ancestors with the chimps more than once, so that suggests a diaspora and a speciation, or ‘raciation’ at least, and then some cases of re-integration, I guess. Five million years. But the fact that we carry some DNA doesn’t prove we didn’t eat a million of our rival homos and only marry a few of them. Interestingly, the Neanderthal DNA we carry is on the male side, right? Big surprise. I always knew these sapiens girls prefer the Neanderthal types.

      Kinda making the point here, that they go hand in hand, that threats to survival like war and famine cause accelerated breeding, not a one or the other thing at all. But farmers can’t have predators or hunter gatherers around, so that’s war too if there’s nomads still.

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      • Benjamin David Steele April 1, 2017 / 8:00 pm

        Since humans so easily interbred with neanderthals and others, why do we consider them separate species? It seems like it would be more accurate to call them sub-species, the actual scientific definition of races. Early homo sapiens were a race and neanderthals were a race. Then they bred together becoming a hybrid species, both sub-species having disappeared. There is only maybe one tiny population left that has no neanderthal genetics. We aren’t homo sapiens but homo sapiens-neanderthals.

        Along with all the sex, I’m sure there was plenty of killing as well. Then again, even racialized slavery in the United States didn’t stop large-scale mixing of genetics, such that a surprising percentage of Southern whites have African genetics. That wasn’t for a lack of many blacks having been killed in the process of enslavement. There is no conflict between having sex with members of a population while also killing members of that same population. Heck, even within populations, people regularly kill each other.

        As for competition, I’m not sure that was ever a major issue. Climate warming, environmental changes, and such was making life difficult for neanderthals long before humans grew large in numbers in Europe. By the time humans were taking over Europe, the main populations of neanderthals had long been gone. I don’t know of any evidence that high levels of regular conflict happened between the two hominid (sub-)species, such as a pit full of slaughtered neanderthals along with tools known to be made by early homo sapiens.

        It’s hard to do much more than speculate. In evolutionary terms, the period where they crossed over in the same areas was a brief moment in time. But during that brief moment we know at the very least a lot of interbreeding was going on. We have no way of knowing how willing it was or under what circumstances it occurred. It seems reasonable, though, that there were some kinds of pressures making this kind of relating more probable. Maybe when homo sapiens are under stress, they seek out something new and unusual to have sex with, as a way of promoting genetic mixing to increase chances of survival. That is as good a guess as any.

        I can’t claim to be overly attached to any particular theory. It’s just interesting to think about.

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        • Jeff/neighsayer April 1, 2017 / 8:17 pm

          YOU just said “humans” as opposed to “Neanderthals,” so you’re speciating us too! LOL. I know what you mean, I do mean somewhere between species and race. Oh, Jesus, double LOL – I’m sure you didn’t mean to say when two “races” breed, you get a hybrid “species!” I know, all just words, it’s just fun and funny.

          Oh shit, fun right to the end!

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          • Benjamin David Steele April 2, 2017 / 4:04 am

            I was being intentionally vague in some ways I was using words. It’s not clear to me how we scientifically distinguish a species from a sub-species.

            Wolves and coyotes are typically considered separate species, but they have increasingly interbred as habitats have shrunk. Are those hybrids a new separate species? If not, were wolves and coyotes ever really separate species or simply different populations that were contained in separate environmental niches?

            This pertains to humans. Neanderthals bred with humans when environmental changes brought homo sapiens out of their once limited niche in Africa and when the habitat for neanderthals was shrinking. Homo sapiens were only able to succeed so well because the environment had changed, but prior to that homo sapiens came to the brink of extinction twice. Were all those hominids really separate species? And what kind of species are modern humans?

            I’m reminded of bonobos and chimpanzees. They are both genetically close to each other and to humans. Only a river separates bonobos and chimpanzees, keeping them from breeding. There apparently is nothing stopping the viable interbreeding between bonobos and chimpanzees or between either of them and humans. If we are so genetically close that we could have offspring together, whey do we consider there to be a distinction of species?

            The dividing lines seem arbitrary in many ways. Evolution doesn’t care about the abstract categories that modern humans invent. We get our minds all tied up in the knots of our own conceptual making.

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