The Ugly Extinction

There are a number of theories regarding Neanderthal extinction. Some of these center around the struggle between the already established Neanderthal population and the encroaching anatomically modern human (Homo sapiens or Cro-magnon) population in the Levant, and subsequently into Central and Western Europe.

The theories contend that modern humans were better adapted, had superior hunting, intellectual, and social skills. These advantages ultimately forced the Neanderthal population into into less hospitable environs with substandard resources, then ultimately into extinction.

This all may be true. However, I’d like to put forth a slightly different interpretation to the Neanderthal extinction. Sure, I’ll agree it was contention with the new human population. However, instead of the aforementioned characteristics, I believe that Neanderthals died off because modern humans were simply more attractive.

Yes, you read that correctly. Humans won the day because they were (and still are) better looking than Neanderthals.  Face it (and have you seen a Neanderthal facial reconstruction?), a Neanderthal is not the most handsome or prettiest face at the dance.

I contend that Neanderthal males were much more attracted to human females than to their own female counterparts, plain and simple.

It’s a basic instinct and can be observed through the animal kingdom; the better looking male individuals are more likely to mate more frequently with the attractive females. These more attractive females are also more likely to gain favor with the males to bring them food and offer shelter.

To those of us who survived high school, this all makes perfect sense. The current infatuation with geekdom aside, the good looking girl did not always end up with the good looking guy. Singer/songwriter Joe Jackson summed it up succinctly in his hit single Is she really going out with him? “Pretty women walking with gorillas down my street.”

Males are attracted to beautiful women. Females, on the other hand, are attracted to strong males who can provide and protect. Who can blame a young homo sapiens female for choosing a hulking Neanderthal over a slim (albeit possibly more handsome) male Homo sapiens?  The Neanderthal was the better hunter and protector, given the sheer difference in size and strength compared to a modern human. Neanderthal women on the other hand, wanted nothing to do with scrawny homo sapiens males. Sure, modern human males could run faster. So what? Big game hunting (the type that put food on the table at that time) was an ambush game in wooded highlands that required bulk strength. No one chased after big game in an open field.

The problems arose when reproduction is factored in. Hybridization overwhelmingly favored offspring from a male Neanderthal with female human coupling. The offspring tended to be more modern human than Neanderthal . They carried human mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) rather than Neanderthal mtDNA, and, most importantly, the hybridized male offspring were infertile. This skewed the subsequent generations further toward human rather than Neanderthal genetics.

With the Neanderthal males chasing human females, Neanderthal to Neanderthal mating was reduced. Sure, the ugly Neanderthal women tried to compete, but as the saying goes: lipstick on a pig….

I suspect that the human females who coupled with Neanderthal males still went off for trysts with human males while their Neanderthal mates were off hunting, further skewing the subsequent generations toward human DNA.

Eventually, the lopsided mating resulted in a diminishing number of pure Neanderthal males. Neanderthal females who had no mates had already died off due to lack of hunting skills and ability to feed themselves and their own offspring.

The rest, I’m afraid, is history.

1 thought on “The Ugly Extinction

  1. Interesting. I wonder if it’s as simple as neanderthal females finding “modern humans” more attractive on an aesthetic level, or if there’s an evolutionary reason as to why those females found those males more attractive than their neanderthal counterparts. Going along with your theory, I would suppose that the reason for finding a modern human attractive is because bulky neanderthal bodies were no longer needed and the slimmer, faster modern male body had more survival potential.


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