Re: Speciation - how do you know?

25 Sep 1996 16:27:20 GMT

Paul Crowley ( wrote:
: In article <>
: "Stephen Barnard" writes:

: > I would like to ask Paul Crowley why he thinks Neanderthals were so
: > robust. There must have been a reason. It's reasonable to speculate
: > that it was due to their lifestyle.

: I've no problem about people making speculations; I've made more
: than enough in this newgroup. It's just that IMHO the standard one
: about Neanderthal lifestyles is really bad. If we get it out of our
: minds maybe we can think about other possibilities. What have we got?
: (a) they lived in a cold climate; (b) they weren't built for speed or
: lots of running; (c) they often seem to have peculiar tooth wear.
: -- I can't do anything with this.

Add the following:
1. A distinctive toolkit that shows site-specificity, but evolved slowly,
2. No throwing weapons. Weapons use involved close contact with the target.
3. A typical physique that would make any rugby forward green with envy.
4. Inflated facial structure.
5. No evidence until very late for decoration.
6. Site organization unspecialized. Little evidence for workspace
7. Preferred site locations in protected areas, whereas Cro Magnon
preferred locations with long-range visibility.

: > Maybe they were immensely strong so
: > they could turn over boulders to find grubs? Not likely. Maybe they
: > were into bodybuilding contests? Less likely. How can you explain the
: > many bone fractures found in their fossils?

: Sorry, I don't have any explanations. Should I?

You need some working hypotheses. Neanderthals are gone, so to
reconstruct their behavior, you have to ask questions of their fossils.
--very strong, neither mobile nor fast
--bone fractures common and similar to those of rodeo riders
--no evidence for thrown weapons.

Compare those with the predatory strategies of cats, sabre-tooths, bears,
and dogs, and you see evidence for a short-range ambush hunter that
specialized on large prey. In some ways, an ecological vicar of a bear or
sabre-toothed cat.

: But what would you do if you and some heavily-built friends found
: yourself having to survive in, say, a well-wooded environment with
: a Mediteranean climate using Neanderthal type tools? I'd bet that
: chasing(?) aurochs or other fast quadrupeds would be a long way down
: the list, if it was in it at all.

See above.


Harry Erwin, Internet:, Web Page:
49 year old PhD student in computational neuroscience ("how bats do it" 8)
and lecturer for CS 211 (data structures and advanced C++)