Freeze Condemned Neanderthals

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22 Feb 07

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Freeze 'condemned Neanderthals'
Cause may have been the Milankovitch cycle
(The same reason that 
the next ice age could begin any day)

20 Feb 07 - New data from the Neanderthal’s last known refuge in southern Iberia indicates they were probably beaten by a cold spell some 24,000 years ago.

Sediment cores drilled from the sea bed near the Balearic Islands show the average sea-surface temperature plunged to 8C (46F). Modern-day sea surface temperatures in the same region vary from 14C (57F) to 20C (68F).

Neanderthals appear in the fossil record about 350,000 years ago and, at their peak, these squat, physically powerful hunters dominated a wide range, spanning Britain and Iberia in the west to Israel in the south and Uzbekistan in the east.

They had survived in local pockets during previous Ice Ages, bouncing back when conditions improved. But the last one appears to have been characterised by several rapid and severe changes in climate which hit a peak 30,000 years ago.

Southern Iberia appears to have been sheltered from the worst of these. But about 24,000 years ago, conditions deteriorated there.

This event was the most severe the region had seen for 250,000 years, report Clive Finlayson, from the Gibraltar Museum; Francisco Jimenez-Espejo, from the University of Granada, Spain; and colleagues. Their findings are published in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews.

"It looks pretty severe and also quite short," Professor Finlayson told BBC News.

"Things like olive trees and oak trees that are still with us today managed to ride it out. But a very fragmented, stressed population of Neanderthals - and perhaps other elements of the fauna - did not."

The cause of this chill may have been cyclical changes in the Earth's position relative to the Sun - so-called Milankovitch cycles.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/6341987.stm
Thanks to Icewoman for this link

 

               

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