Scientists are, more and more, studying the relationship between humans and Neanderthals during the time the two species walked the Earth together. Previously, we weren't sure about what the relationship was. However, some of the advancements in genetic analysis has led us to come to new understandings about the relationship, or even if there is one.
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As it turns out, they may have known each other a lot longer than we figured.
A new report out of Smithsonian Magazine shows that we are actually responsible for spreading a large number of diseases to our ancient hominid cousins. The mass migrations of the early Homo sapiens into Europe from Africa facilitated the transport of a number of diseases that included herpes, tuberculosis, tapeworms, and stomach ulcers to Neanderthal.
According the study's lead author, Charlotte Houldcroft from Cambridge, “Humans migrating out of Africa would have been a significant reservoir of tropical diseases. For the Neanderthal population of Eurasia, adapted to that geographical infectious disease environment, exposure to new pathogens carried out of Africa may have been catastrophic.”
Many scientists used to believe that this wasn't the case until agriculture was developed, because agriculture brought more and more people living together as they came into contact with domesticated animals.
However, genetic analysis reveals that isn't the case. In fact, the analysis of Herpes Simplex 2, which is the bug that causes genital herpes, reveals that the disease first showed up 1.2 million years ago.
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“Our hypothesis is basically that each band of Neanderthals had its own personal disaster and over time you lose more and more groups,” says Dr. Houldcroft. “I don’t think we’ll ever find a single theory of what killed the Neanderthals, but there is increasing evidence that lots of things happened over a period of a few thousand years that cumulatively killed them off.”