A parsimonious neutral model suggests Neanderthal replacement was determined by migration and random species drift

Oren Kolodny*, Marcus W. Feldman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations

Abstract

Most hypotheses in the heated debate about the Neanderthals' replacement by modern humans highlight the role of environmental pressures or attribute the Neanderthals' demise to competition with modern humans, who occupied the same ecological niche. The latter assume that modern humans benefited from some selective advantage over Neanderthals, which led to the their extinction. Here we show that a scenario of migration and selectively neutral species drift predicts the Neanderthals' replacement. Our model offers a parsimonious alternative to those that invoke external factors or selective advantage, and represents a null hypothesis for assessing such alternatives. For a wide range of parameters, this hypothesis cannot be rejected. Moreover, we suggest that although selection and environmental factors may or may not have played a role in the inter-species dynamics of Neanderthals and modern humans, the eventual replacement of the Neanderthals was determined by the repeated migration of modern humans from Africa into Eurasia.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number1040
JournalNature Communications
Volume8
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 The Author(s).

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