Ancient humans likely gave Neanderthals herpes, tapeworms and more

According to a new study, Neanderthals may have been wiped out largely in part due to the diseases the ancestors of modern humans brought them. Herpes, tapeworms, tuberculosis, and stomach ulcers were among the issues humans brought Neanderthals; they weren't prepared for these "tropical diseases," and the end result was likely severe, affecting small groups of Neanderthals as they came into contact with migrating ancient humans.

The information comes from a study recently published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology — while details are slight at this time, the updated timeframes of disease evolution suggest many issues, like the ones named above, were present when ancient humans gravitated north into the European region. Neanderthals would have been adapted to local pathogens, but not to these new conditions.

According to the study's author Charlotte Houldcroft:

For the Neanderthal population of Eurasia, adapted to that geographical infectious disease environment, exposure to new pathogens carried out of Africa may have been catastrophic ... Our hypothesis is basically that each band of Neanderthals had its own personal disaster and over time you lose more and more groups.

The odds of ever finding out definitively what killed the Neanderthals is very, very low. As more information arrives, though, such as how old certain pathogens are, the picture becomes more clear and the (likely) cause more apparent. Check out the timeline below for other Neanderthal news!

SOURCE: Smithsonian