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Article  Where did they all go? How Homo sapiens became the last human species left

C C Offline

INTRO: Just 300,000 years ago – a blink in evolutionary time – at least nine species of humans wandered the planet. Today, only our own, Homo sapiens, remains. And this raises one of the biggest questions in the story of human evolution: where did everyone else go?

“It’s not a coincidence that several of them disappeared around the time that Homo sapiens started to spread out of Africa and around the rest of the world,” says Prof Chris Stringer, head of human origins at the Natural History Museum in London. “What we don’t know is if that was a direct connection.”

There are many theories around the disappearance of our human cousins, and limited evidence to decipher exactly what happened. But recent studies are providing tantalising clues.

What we do know is that from about 40,000 years ago, H sapiens was the last human standing out of a large and diverse group of bipedal hominins. Hypotheses range from benign, such as H sapiens having better infant survival rates than other hominins, or climate changes pushing other species to the brink. Others suggest a more active role, such as H sapiens hunting other humans or interbreeding with them and assimilating their genetics.

About 300,000 years ago, the first H sapiens populations were springing up in Africa. They didn’t look like modern humans, but they are more similar to us than other Homo species. They had tall, rounded skulls with an almost vertical forehead. They didn’t have the glowering brows of Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) or the protruding jaw of archaic-looking species such as Homo naledi. They also had chins; something that no other Homo species has had (although we don’t know why only H sapiens has the protuberance).

A study published in Nature this year exploded the idea that H sapiens originated from a single place in Africa in one great evolutionary leap. By analysing the genomes of 290 people, the researchers showed that H sapiens descended from at least two populations that lived in Africa for 1m years, before merging in several interactions... (MORE - details)
Magical Realist Offline
I think the other hominid species picked a bad time to become nomadic. Or rather were forced into it. The last glacial period began about 100,000 years ago and lasted until 25,000 years ago. Wandering the desolate winterscape of that time would certainly have taken its toll on these clans. Nomadism in a cold climate is a hard and desperate existence. Hence it is a strong natural selection driver.

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