A Close Call
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Less than a million years ago, human ancestors nearly met the same fate as dinosaurs, CNN reported.
A new study found evidence that our early ancestors were nearly wiped out at one point in history and took more than 100,000 years to recover.
An international research team used a new computer model to analyze genetic information from 3,154 present-day human genomes. The data also included genetic sequences from 10 African and 40 non-African populations.
Their analysis showed that nearly 99 percent of human ancestors around the globe disappeared around 900,000 years ago, with only around 1,280 individuals surviving.
This period, known as a “population bottleneck,” persisted for approximately 117,000 years before our ancestors recovered and multiplied.
The researchers linked this population crash with significant changes in climate during the mid-Pleistocene transition. This era witnessed longer and more intense glacial periods, resulting in a drop in temperature and extremely dry climatic conditions.
The team theorized that the use of fire and the ability to control fire, as well as a changing climate that became more favorable for human habitation, contributed to the rapid increase in population which reached its height around 813,000 years ago.
They noted that this population crash also correlates with a gap in fossil records, which might have eventually led to the emergence of a new hominin species as a common ancestor of modern humans, or Homo sapiens, and Neanderthals.
But there are still many questions about how these people survived, including where they lived and how they endured the harsh climate conditions.
Other scientists have described the findings as “provocative” and recommended more investigation into this proposed population bottleneck.