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The replacement of Neanderthals by Anatomically Modern Humans has typically been attributed to environmental pressure or a superiority of modern humans with respect to competition for resources. Here we present two independent models that suggest that no such heatedly debated factors might be needed to account for the demise of Neanderthals. Starting from the observation that Neanderthal populations already were small before the arrival of modern humans, the models implement three factors that conservation biology identifies as critical for a small population's persistence, namely inbreeding, Allee effects and stochasticity. Our results indicate that the disappearance of Neanderthals might have resided in the smallness of their population(s) alone: even if they had been identical to modern humans in their cognitive, social and cultural traits, and even in the absence of inter-specific competition, Neanderthals faced a considerable risk of extinction. Furthermore, we suggest that if modern humans contributed to the demise of Neanderthals, that contribution might have had nothing to do with resource competition, but rather with how the incoming populations geographically restructured the resident populations, in a way that reinforced Allee effects, and the effects of inbreeding and stochasticity.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: PloS one
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A reduced GENETIC VARIATION and GENETIC FITNESS due to INBREEDING.
Observation of a population for a sufficient number of persons over a sufficient number of years to generate incidence or mortality rates subsequent to the selection of the study group.
The magnitude of INBREEDING in humans.
The relating of causes to the effects they produce. Causes are termed necessary when they must always precede an effect and sufficient when they initiate or produce an effect. Any of several factors may be associated with the potential disease causation or outcome, including predisposing factors, enabling factors, precipitating factors, reinforcing factors, and risk factors.
The mating of plants or non-human animals which are closely related genetically.