A recent study found that during colder time periods, Neanderthals had insufficient nutrient availability that made them turn to more drastic resources advantages like processing the bones more heavily, a sign of food scarcity in the colder climate.

Researchers from the study, published in the Journal of Human Evolution, looked at how carcasses of deer and other animals were butchered and used for food. The analysis showed that the bones excavated from the colder levels of the caves had more cut and percussion marks than those from the warmer levels, according to the study.

Climate change may have contributed to Neanderthals extiction
A recent study suggests that climate change may have contributed to the Neanderthal species extinction. Credit: NBC News

The study provided support for the hypothesis that hominids were exploiting more heavily the faunal remains during glacial periods, suggesting a response to an increased nutritional stress during colder time periods. The recovered bones for the latest study were extracted from two French sites, the Pech de l’Azé IV, Pech IV Bordes’ excavation, and Roc de Marsal.

“Our research uncovers a pattern showing that cold, harsh environments were stressful for Neanderthals,” said Jamie Hodgkins, a zooarchaeologist and assistant professor in the Zoology department at the University of Colorado-Denver. “As the climate got colder, Neanderthals had to put more into extracting nutrients from bones. This is especially apparent in evidence that reveals Neanderthals attempted to break open even low marrow yield bones, like the small bones of the feet,” Hodgkins added.

According to Hodgkins, the results illustrated that the climate change has real effects. Studying the Neanderthal behavior is an opportunity to understand how a rapidly climate change affected the closest human relatives in the past, he commented.

If Neanderthal populations were already on the edge of survival at the end of Ice Age, the increased competition that occurred when modern humans appeared on the scene may have pushed them over the edge, Hodgkins added.

Inter-species breeding

According to the already established hypothesis, as the temperature dropped, both Neandertals and modern humans were compelled to move around more in search of food and encountered each other more often, as reported by Discovery News.

This encounter would have led to inter-species breeding over a 5,00-year-period that eventually resulted in the extinction of the Neanderthals as an individual species. The extinct species is thought to have a significant influence in modern humans genes.

Source: Journal of Human Evolution