Last week was a bad week for Neanderthals. First we found out that they came under bombardment by modern humans and were unable to respond. And now it turns out they couldn’t stand the heat. The New Scientist asks Did Neanderthal Cells Cook as the Climate Warmed?
Neanderthals may have gone extinct because their cells couldn’t cope with climate change, according to a new hypothesis presented at a genetics conference this month.
Metabolic adaptations to Ice Age Europe may have proved costly to Neanderthals after the continent’s climate started to change, says Patrick Chinnery, a molecular biologist at Newcastle University, UK.
He and colleague Gavin Hudson identified potentially harmful mutations in the newly sequenced Neanderthal mitochondrial genome. In particular, the researchers found genes that are associated with neurodegenerative diseases and deafness. “If they were found in modern humans they would be bad news,” Chinnery says.
The extinction of Neanderthals, close relatives of modern humans, some 25,000 years ago remains unexplained.