Tue, 21 May 2013 09:00 CDT
© Pierre Andrieu/AFP/Getty Images
A model representing a Neanderthal man is displayed at the National Museum of Prehistory in Eyzies-de-Tayac, Dordogne, France.
Humans today eat gorillas and chimpanzees, so why would our prehistoric ancestors flinch at sitting down to a nicely roasted Neanderthal?
That's the shocking new hypothesis being raised by anthropologists in Spain, who wonder if our closest extinct relative was exterminated in the same way as 178 other large mammals, so-called megafauna, which are suspected of going at least partially by the hand of hungry human hunters.
"Except in its native Africa, in the other continents Homo sapiens
can be considered as an invasive alien species," write researchers Policarp Hortolà and Bienvenido Martínez-Navarro of the Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Tarragona, Spain. They published their hypothesis in the May issue of the journal Quaternary International.
Today, there are endless cases of invasive species decimating native species all over the world. So perhaps at the end of the Pliestocene, it was the same when humans spread into Europe and Asia, where Homo neanderthalensis
was just another big, slow-reproducing mammal.
"We think that modern humans, who occupied a similar ecological niche as Neanderthals, but with more evolved technology, in their colonization of the new European territories directly competed with Neanderthals for the food and other natural resources," wrote Martínez-Navarro in an emailed response to Discovery News.