Did volcanic eruption trigger extinction of Neanderthals?

The decline of the Neanderthals started well before the Campanian Ignimbrite (CI) eruption in Italy 40,000 years ago, long thought to be a cause of their extinction, a new research has found.

IANS| Last Updated: Mar 21, 2015, 15:07 PM IST

New York: The decline of the Neanderthals started well before the Campanian Ignimbrite (CI) eruption in Italy 40,000 years ago, long thought to be a cause of their extinction, a new research has found.

The study published in the journal Geology concluded that the eruption was probably insufficient to trigger Neanderthal extinction.

"Nonetheless, significant volcanic cooling during the years immediately following the eruption could have impacted the viability of already precarious populations and influenced many aspects of daily life for Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans," said one of the study authors Benjamin Black from the University of California, Berkeley.

CI eruption approximately coincided with the final decline of Neanderthals as well as with dramatic territorial and cultural advances among anatomically modern humans.

Because of this, the roles of climate, hominin competition and volcanic sulfur cooling and acid deposition have been vigorously debated as causes of Neanderthal extinction, the authors explained.

The researchers tested this hypothesis with a sophisticated climate model.

They found that the largest temperature decreases after the eruption occurred in Eastern Europe and Asia and sidestepped the areas where the final Neanderthal populations were living (Western Europe).

Therefore, they concluded that the eruption was probably insufficient to trigger Neanderthal extinction.