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Several past human species went extinct due to climate change. Source: regis allouet /Adobe Stock

Scientists Warn That What Killed Past Human Species Could End Us Too

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One of the greatest mysteries in science is why there is only one species of humans in the world today. In the past, there were several and they often co-existed for considerable periods. These past human species are modern humans’ older ancestors. Now, researchers believe that they know why our ancestors disappeared. Since they could not adapt to climate change the past human species became extinct, unlike Homo sapiens .

Past Human Species Who Shared the Planet

For millennia there was more than one human species roaming the earth. Indeed, they often interbred with each other, and for this reason modern humans have genes of long-extinct past human species. A group of Italian researchers decided to examine why our ancestors vanished from the face of the earth and why we were the only ones to survive.

The researchers wrote in One Earth that ‘At least six different Homo species populated the World during the latest Pliocene to the Pleistocene.’ They focused on why Homo habilis, Homo ergaster, Homo erectus, Homo heidelbergensis, and Homo neanderthalensis , all went extinct. These species of homo disappeared, the authors of the study are quoted in Science Daily   as saying, “despite technological innovations including the use of fire and refined stone tools and the formation of complex social networks.”

Stone tools and simple clothing weren’t enough to save past human species. (ExQuisine /Adobe Stock)

Stone tools and simple clothing weren’t enough to save past human species. ( ExQuisine /Adobe Stock)

Recreating the Prehistoric Climate

The Italian researchers hypothesized that climate change played a key role in the demise of species such as the Neanderthals. All of them had a climatic niche, that is a climate that they had adapted to successfully. H. sapiens were included in the study to determine why they survived, unlike their relatives. Researchers examined an extensive fossil database spanning over a million years. They developed a climate emulator to create a model of past climates and how they changed over 5 million years.

Climate Change and the Extinction of Past Human Species

Using factor analysis, the experts were able to calculate how the changes in temperature and rainfall impacted the climate niche of each species . For three species, H. heidelbergensis, H. erectus, and H. neanderthalensis , they found that ‘their climatic niche widths shrunk suddenly just before they vanished,’ reports One Earth .

This means that the climate changed, making their environment challenging and they could not adapt to the new environment. This contributed greatly to their extinction. In the case of the Neanderthals, this was “made even worse by competition with H. sapiens,” according to Dr. Pasquale Raia of Naples University.

Neanderthals had to compete with Homo sapiens too. ( ginettigino /Adobe Stock)

The data from the climatic simulator offers strong evidence that the three extinct species of Homo were not able to cope with rising or cooling temperatures. Raia is quoted by Science Daily as saying that “We were surprised by the regularity of the effect of climate change.”

While there is evidence, based on the geographical distribution of remains, that the archaic humans tried to move to more favorable climates they were not able to adjust to the new conditions. Dr. Raia is quoted by The Independent as saying that:

“It was crystal clear, for the extinct species and them only, that climatic conditions were just too extreme just before extinction and only in that particular moment.”

Why Modern Humans Survived

In One Earth the study’s authors wrote that ‘Our results show striking differences in vulnerability between H. sapiens and the significantly more vulnerable extinct species .’ It appears that our Homo sapiens ancestors were less vulnerable to environmental changes. They had a much wider climatic niche, that is to say, that they could endure and adapt to changing temperatures and environmental conditions. Their cognitive abilities and technologies, such as fire , meant that they could ‘mitigate the effects of climate change on their survival by effectively manipulating their own microclimates or moving rapidly to settle under better conditions’ states One Earth .

However, the study noted that climate change also often had a profound impact on H. sapiens and could again in the future. At a time of rapid climate change the results of the study on early humans’ extinctions are truly relevant. Dr. Raia is quoted by The Independent as saying that “It is worrisome to discover that our ancestors, which were no less impressive in terms of mental power as compared to any other species on Earth, could not resist climate change.”

A Thunderous Warning Message

Unlike in the past, the current changes in the climate are almost certainly linked to human activities. The Independent quotes Dr. Raia as stating that “I personally take this as a thunderous warning message.” The research shows that modern humans are as vulnerable as our ancient extinct relatives, such as the Neanderthals, to climate change . We too may one day be as helpless as they were when their environment changed. Just because we successfully adapted in the past , that does not mean that we can in the future.

Top image: Several past human species went extinct due to climate change. Source: regis allouet /Adobe Stock

By Ed Whelan

Comments

I suggest you check your time frames regarding volcanic eruptions and the real impact on surrounding cultures.  I’m not questioning your climate change conclusions but the timing is a bit off...

From stardust I was born, to stardust I shall return

Hello Ed,

All I have to say on this subject is on National Geographic Channel they did a 60 Minute Segment on Super Volcanoes.

There supposed to be 5 Times Bigger than Santorini's Eruption, an Bigger than 2 of the Volcanoes in Indonesia that erupted one in 1815, Tambora which led to an absence of Summer and a Famine in Europe, then there was Krakota in 1883.

Researchers discovered that when the Super Volcano in Yellowstone once erupted 640,000 years ago in Nebraska they found evidence of animal bones such as horses, rhinoceros, Camels an other's whose bone fragments and jaw bones they tested for evidence of this Super Eruption.

The thing that took the scientist a back in the program is that when the Super Volcano erupted in Yellowstone that was 1,000 miles away from Nebraska yet, all the animals had died?
It was quite baffling and alarming to the scientist's.

They gathered evidence that this Super Volcano under Yellowstone has been very active, there's a record of it erupting consecutively over the years so it's quite active.

So it is a matter that Yellowstone is overdue for another Eruption it's not a matter of If but When. They have machines there monitoring Yellowstone for frequent Earthquake activity because this alerts them what the volcano below Yellowstone is doing.

I also looked up which was produced by National Geographic Channel The Eruption of Mt. Pintbau in The Philippines June 15, 1991, it waa the size of Krakota in 1883, that's because there Category 3's in terms of power of the Eruptions, I know Mt. St. Helens is a Category 2: unlike Krakota the Volcano in The Philippines was much quieter however the eruption itself was made worse because it was Typhoon Season and a Category 3 Typhoon ran right into the Category 3 Eruption of the Volcano from this Cataclysmic event in 1991 resulted in 3 years of Global Warming.

In 1815, Tambora caused almost a year in a half of Global warming, that was catastrophic to nearly everyone those are just smaller scale examples I prefer if Yellowstone never erupted obviously that's not going to happen.

They said in the Yellowstone Documentary that once it erupts the Ash Cloud in the atmosphere would last 6 year's before we got our life style back.

The point of this program was that these Eruptions nearly drove humanity too extinction because of these Super Volcanic Eruptions in Yellowstone and was possibly a direct result of Climate Change.

Naked Science mentions Climate Change as an result of Super Volcano eruptions.
They said 100,000 years ago our Ancestors in Africa were thriving but then there was this Cataclysmic Eruption that drove plants trees and animals to extinction and nearly ended Us as a whole.

Those Volcanoes perhaps killed off those other humans that once lived might have left the Homo Sapiens of today?

In my case I believe in The Bible I believe that Adam and Eve Sinning in Eden resulted in Climate Change and then because of The Great Flood this then changed our Climate more so which then led to The Ice Age.

That's how I see it. Well until next time Ed thank you for sharing this article goodbye!

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