High protein diet to blame for Neanderthals extinction?
The total dependence of Neanderthals on large animals to satisfy their fat and protein needs may provide a clue to their eventual extinction, say...
New York: The total dependence of Neanderthals on large animals to satisfy their fat and protein needs may provide a clue to their eventual extinction, say researchers. 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.
The extinction of Neanderthals took place at the same time as the beginning of the demise of giant animals or "Megafauna" in Europe, the researchers pointed out. 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.
The study by researchers at Tel Aviv University in Israel found that the Ice-Age diet -- a high-protein intake of large animals -- triggered physical changes in Neanderthals, namely a larger ribcage and a wider pelvis.According to the research, the bell-shaped Neanderthal ribcage or thorax had to evolve to accommodate a larger liver, the organ responsible for metabolising great quantities of protein into energy.
This heightened metabolism also required an expanded renal system (enlarged bladder and kidneys) to remove large amounts of toxic urea, possibly resulting in a wide Neanderthal pelvis.