With their large brains, sturdy physique, sophisticated tools, and hunting skills, Neanderthals are the closest known relatives to humans. Approximately 200,000 years ago, as modern humans began to radiate out from their evolutionary birthplace in Africa, Neanderthals were already thriving in Europe--descendants of a much earlier migration of the African genus Homo .Read more...
With their large brains, sturdy physique, sophisticated tools, and hunting skills, Neanderthals are the closest known relatives to humans. Approximately 200,000 years ago, as modern humans began to radiate out from their evolutionary birthplace in Africa, Neanderthals were already thriving in Europe--descendants of a much earlier migration of the African genus Homo. But when modern humans eventually made their way to Europe 45,000 years ago, Neanderthals suddenly vanished. Ever since the first Neanderthal bones were identified in 1856, scientists have been vexed by the question, why did modern humans survive while their evolutionary cousins went extinct?
The Invaders musters compelling evidence to show that the major factor in the Neanderthals' demise was direct competition with newly arriving humans. Drawing on insights from the field of invasion biology, which predicts that the species ecologically closest to the invasive predator will face the greatest competition, Pat Shipman traces the devastating impact of a growing human population: reduction of Neanderthals' geographic range, isolation into small groups, and loss of genetic diversity.
But modern humans were not the only invaders who competed with Neanderthals for big game. Shipman reveals fascinating confirmation of humans' partnership with the first domesticated wolf-dogs soon after Neanderthals first began to disappear. This alliance between two predator species, she hypothesizes, made possible an unprecedented degree of success in hunting large Ice Age mammals--a distinct and ultimately decisive advantage for humans over Neanderthals at a time when climate change made both groups vulnerable.
- ISBN-13: 9780674736764
- ISBN-10: 0674736761
- Publisher: Belknap Press: An Imprint of Harvard Universi
- Publish Date: March 2015
- Page Count: 288
- Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 1.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 0.95 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-05-04
- Reviewer: Staff
Why did Neanderthals go extinct while modern humans flourished? Was it the invasion of modern human populations or a changing climate that pushed Neanderthals into extinction? These are the main questions that Shipman (The Animal Connection) addresses. She summarizes much of what is known about diets, hunting behavior, and lifestyles of both Neanderthals and humans, while examining ancient climate change and recent advances in dating technology. She concludes that the data does not support the idea that climate change alone can account for the extinction of our cousin species. Focusing on the ecological concept of species invasion, Shipman contends that as humans expanded their range, their dietary flexibility and technological innovations permitted them to outcompete other major carnivores, including Neanderthals, cave bears, lesser scimitar cats, cave lions and cave hyenas. Shipman makes a strong case, but fails to find evidence for the title's premise, the idea that dogs played a significant role in the extinction of the Neanderthals. Indeed, as she points out, Neanderthals were likely extinct by the time the first evidence for canine domestication appears. Nonetheless, there is still ample evidence that dogs played a significant role in human evolution, and Shipman addresses this role creatively. Illus. (Mar.)