Tuesday, 16 August 2016

smoke-screen or homo habilis

Just as a tolerance for dairy afforded some populations an advantage over their neighbours in more recent epochs, an early mutation in humans may have privileged them over their hominid competition. As Mysterious Universe informs via Strange Company, Neanderthals may have been quite literally smoked out by humans who could far better handle the ill pulmonary effects of cooking and keeping bonfires for warmth, light, staving off predation and perhaps rituals. Our view of our extinct cousins is generally a dim one, but gradually we are being disabused of a lot of these primitive stereotypes, including the discovery that most all modern humans have a small percentage of stowaway DNA fossilised within us as a reminder that we once shared our society.
It strikes me as a little ironic that this respiratory robustness may have been responsible for humans pulling out ahead, while there’s such incapacitation and moral panic over air-pollution, asthma and allergies—external and self-imposed. I wonder if those bits of cavemen genes (though a very small component of our total genetic makeup, the traits that we’ve inherited are different from one individual to the next) aren’t responsible for our collective frailties. Maybe our ancient ancestors got help from other sources as well.