NEANDERTHALS couldn’t stop romping with their family members – and it may have spelled their demise 40,000 years ago. Rampant inbreeding left
NEANDERTHALS couldn’t stop romping with their family members – and it may have spelled their demise 40,000 years ago.
Rampant inbreeding left many of the ancient human-like creatures with physical deformities, a study found.
Neanderthals (artist’s impression) are an ancient ancestor of humans[/caption]
It intensified as their numbers dwindled across Europe, before they eventually died out just a few thousand years after humans travelled to the continent from Africa.
Scientists analysed the ancient bones of 13 Neanderthals who died 49,000 years ago in a cave in northern Spain.
Seven adults – including four women and three men – were analysed, as well as three adolescents and three children.
They shared many of the the same 17 birth defects, which were mainly focussed around the nose, jaw, ribs, feet and wrists.
Scientists analysed Neanderthal teeth and cranial fragments, as well as bones of the body and limbs[/caption]
Pictured are some of the bones looked at by the team[/caption]
It’s unlikely that the rare defects, which included spinal problems and warped teeth, were passed down without some level of inbreeding.
Particularly towards the end of their reign, Neanderthals lived in small and isolated groups.
The beasts would have been forced to inbreed as their dwindling numbers left them with little other option to survive.
But only romping within their own tribes damaged the species’ genetic health, leading to deadly deformities and genetic diseases.
This may have helped bring our close ancestors down after 600,000 years on Earth, though the extinction was probably not caused by a single factor, said team member Antonio Rosas.
“It was likely produced by a combination of ecological and demographic factors, which includes interaction with modern humans.”
The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, was carried out by scientists at the Spanish National Museum of Natural Sciences, the Institute of Evolutionary Biology in Barcelona and the University of Oviedo.
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It wasn’t just the Neanderthals that were randy – a study in November found that early humans had rampant sex with Neanderthals and other primitive cousins in a “world of debauchery”.
Often depicted as brutish or sluggish, the human-like creatures actually had brains that were just as big as early humans’.
Scientists made a bombshell discovery of a 50,000-year-old Neanderthal ‘teenager’ found buried alongside her mum and ‘sub-species’ dad in November.
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