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Narrative of the month: How diet shaped Neanderthal evolution

File:Homo neanderthalensis adult male - head model - Smithsonian Museum of Natural History - 2012-05-17.jpg
Neanderthal 70-80 kya/Tim Evanson, John Gurche

From ScienceDaily:

Homo sapiens, the ancestor of modern humans, shared the planet with Neanderthals, a close, heavy-set relative that dwelled almost exclusively in Ice-Age Europe, until some 40,000 years ago. Neanderthals were similar to Homo sapiens, with whom they sometimes mated — but they were different, too. Among these many differences, Neanderthals were shorter and stockier, with wider pelvises and rib-cages than their modern human counterparts.

“Relative?” What do the researchers mean? D they mean “dfferent species?” Yes or no?

“We found that, in the case of the Neanderthals, an acute shortage of carbohydrates and a limited availability of fat caused their biological adaptation to a high-protein diet.”

Numerous animal experiments have already demonstrated that a high-protein diet is likely to produce enlarged livers and kidneys. “Early indigenous Arctic populations who primarily ate meat also displayed enlarged livers and the tendency to drink a lot of water, a sign of increased renal activity,” said Ben-Dor.

We don’t know that their livers and kidneys were enlarged, only that they were stocky in build.

According to the researchers, the total dependence of Neanderthals on large animals to answer their fat and protein needs may provide a clue to their eventual extinction, which took place at the same time as the beginning of the demise of giant animals or “Megafauna” in Europe some 50,000 years ago. The team is now researching this subject. More. Paper. (paywall)

We don’t know that Neanderthals were totally dependent on large animals to answer their fat and protein needs; that claim is argued by the authors in an earlier paper about Homo erectus.

We also don’t know that Neanderthals “went extinct,” as opposed to being submerged into a larger immigrant population, a common fate even in historical times, one that small distinct groups often try to resist.

Maybe the researchers know definitive answers to these kinds of questions. But the curious fact is that—so entrenched is the Darwinthink in the minds of readers—that they know they don’t need to explain.

And some psychologists want to get kids trained as young as possible in Darwnthink, so that they will never think of asking.

See also: Neanderthal Man: The long-lost relative turns up again, this time with documents

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