This study explores the hypothesis that the cooperation between Canis familiaris (domestic dogs) and Homo sapiens (anatomically modern humans) could have played a significant role in accelerating the extinction of Neanderthal man (Homo neanderthalensis). Through a comprehensive review of archaeological, genetic, and paleoanthropological evidence, we investigate the potential mechanisms by which early domesticated dogs may have provided Homo sapiens with a competitive advantage over Neanderthals, ultimately contributing to the latter’s extinction. These mechanisms include hunting efficiency, enhanced communication, social cohesion, warfare and territorial expansion, and disease transmission. By examining these factors, we aim to shed light on the complex interactions between these hominin species and the environment, highlighting the importance of understanding human-canine relationships in the broader context of human evolution.
The cooperation between Canis familiaris (domestic dogs) and Homo sapiens (anatomically modern humans) could have played a significant role in accelerating the extinction of Neanderthal man (Homo neanderthalensis).
Neanderthals and Homo sapiens are known to have coexisted for thousands of years in Eurasia, and it is still debated why Neanderthals went extinct around 40,000 years ago. There are various factors that could have contributed to their extinction, such as climate change, competition for resources, interbreeding, or even direct conflict.
The domestication of dogs by Homo sapiens could have provided a competitive advantage over Neanderthals, ultimately contributing to the latter’s extinction. This advantage could have manifested in several ways:
Early domesticated dogs could have assisted humans in tracking, chasing, and capturing prey, leading to more successful hunts. This would have allowed Homo sapiens to secure more food and resources, thereby outcompeting Neanderthals.
Domesticated dogs could have served as an extension of human senses, alerting their human counterparts to the presence of danger or potential resources. This increased awareness could have given Homo sapiens an edge in the competition for survival.
Dogs might have played a role in strengthening the social bonds within human communities, as they do in contemporary societies. This increased social cohesion could have made Homo sapiens more effective at coordinating group efforts, such as hunting or defense against predators.
Warfare and Territorial Expansion
Dogs could have been used by Homo sapiens in direct conflicts with Neanderthals, either as a psychological deterrent or as an active participant in skirmishes. The presence of dogs in combat could have provided a strategic advantage for Homo sapiens in the competition for territory and resources.
The close relationship between humans and dogs might have facilitated the transmission of zoonotic diseases to Neanderthals. This could have further weakened the Neanderthal population, making them more vulnerable to other pressures and hastening their extinction.
It is important to note that this hypothesis is speculative and would require further evidence to support it. The role of dogs in the extinction of Neanderthals is just one of many factors that could have contributed to their disappearance. Additionally, the exact timeline of dog domestication is still debated among researchers, with some estimates predating the extinction of Neanderthals and others suggesting that it occurred later.
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