To Understand Neanderthal Night Hunting Methods, Scientists Caught Thousands Of Birds With Bare Hands In Spanish Caves | Smart News

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Neanderthals, our closest human ancestor, went extinct 35,000 to 40,000 years ago.

John Gurache / Chip Clark via Public Domain Wikicommons

Since the first Neanderthal (Homo neanderthalensis) fossils were discovered in the 1800s, scientists conducted extensive studies on how these hominids lived. Researchers previously believed that the first hominids only slept at night and hunted during the day. However, new findings suggest that Neanderthals worked together to hunt birds at night. They even used tools, like torches and nets, to search for chubs, a cave bird belonging to the corvid family, Maddie Bender reports for Vice.

To simulate how Neanderthals were able to forage for food at night, Spanish researchers went to caves and used nets and lamps to capture the perched birds. The study was published earlier this month in Frontiers in ecology and evolution.

“Here we show that the Neanderthals likely preyed on the chubs, birds that spend the night in caves, the Neanderthals’ favorite shelter. We piece together how the Neanderthals could have used fire to dazzle, surround and catch flying craves at night “, explains Guillermo Blanco, researcher at the National Museum of Natural Sciences in Madrid, in a Borders declaration.

Neanderthals, our closest human ancestor, went extinct 35,000 to 40,000 years ago. They hunted mammals, such as red deer in summer and reindeer in winter, using sharp wooden spears and clothing sewn from animal hides. There is also evidence that Neanderthals hunted a variety of birds, including birds of prey, members of the crows family and rock pigeons, the statement said.

In the new study, researchers focused on how Neanderthals hunted choughs, which roosted in caves our ancestors used for shelter. Scientists first performed a literature review to find out how many chough fossils were found in caves that also contained Neanderthal fossils or tools,Vice reports. In Europe, crave fossils have been found in abundance in Neanderthal caves, especially in archaeological sites on the Iberian Peninsula. In nine places on the Iberian Peninsula, the remains of chough had char marks, bite marks or tool cut marks, for example Vice.

Then the team decided to put their hypothesis to the test. For several years, researchers have visited existing caves and learned to catch chubs by hand under the mantle of the night. They used lamps to surprise birds at rest and to simulate torches that might have been carried by Neanderthals in search of a quick meal. All birds were banded and released unharmed after their experiment. In 296 experimental trials at 70 chough roosting sites, scientists captured a total of 5,525 birds.

“We conclude that chubs would have been particularly vulnerable to Neanderthals if they used artificial light, such as fire, in caves at night,” says study author and paleo-ornithologist Antonio Sánchez-Marco, paleo -ornithologist from the Institut Català de Paleontologia. Miquel Crusafont in Barcelona, ​​in a press release. “We show that when dazzled the chubs try either to escape to the outside, in which case you can catch them with nets through the entrance, or to flee to the ceiling, where you can often catch them. catch by hand. Two to three chubs would give enough energy to be a full meal for an adult Neanderthal, while a few skilled hunters could easily catch 40 to 60 chubs per night. ”

The birds would have made a nutritious meal for the first hominids, in particular the red-billed chough which has the highest concentration of carotenoids, an essential micronutrient, Vice reports. The behaviors and social skills needed to capture birds also correspond to how Neanderthals socially lived in groups of 10-20 adults with their children. Because chubs are difficult to capture during the day in the open air, the hominid’s nocturnal hunting habits reveal impressive details about their anatomical, technological, and cognitive abilities.

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