Neanderthals died out 42,000 years ago as Earth’s magnetic poles flipped, scientists claim

New York Daily News:

A new study is shedding light on how and why Neanderthals died out.

The predecessor to humans today, Homo sapiens, vanished about 42,000 years ago. Prevailing theories posited that Neanderthals gradually vanished after breeding out or were outsmarted by Homo sapiens for resources. Some scientists believe that they just died out organically, while others think the population shrunk too much to hunt and mate.

But one research team believes that the flipping of Earth’s magnetic poles around 40,000 B.C. is a likely reason the Neanderthals disappeared.

An article published Friday in the journal Science states that as Earth’s magnetic field weakened, it allowed an influx of cosmic rays to devastate animal and plant life.

The poles are generated by electric currents within the planet’s iron core, which essentially forms one large magnet. Presently, the North pole has drifted toward northern Russia.

But one research team believes that the flipping of Earth’s magnetic poles around 40,000 B.C. is a likely reason the Neanderthals disappeared.

An article published Friday in the journal Science states that as Earth’s magnetic field weakened, it allowed an influx of cosmic rays to devastate animal and plant life.

With more cosmic radiation heating Earth, ozone concentrations lessened which allowed more ultraviolet rays into the atmosphere.

Affected weather patterns could have prompted the expansion of the ice sheet over North America while drying out Australia.

This phenomenon would have caused the extinction of numerous mammal species and forced humans to find cover in caves as a solar storm would have wreaked havoc on the planet.

“It would have been an incredibly scary time,” explained University of New South Wales Earth scientist Chris Turney. “Almost like the end of days.”

But other researchers have major doubts. Natural History Museum anthropologist Chris Stringer says it’s difficult to pinpoint just how Neanderthals ceased to exist.

“They did survive longer and ranged more widely than just Europe,” said Stringer. “And we have a very poor fix on the timing of their final disappearance across swathes of Asia.”

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