One of the classic themes of Loony Tunes is Elmer Fudd trying to hunt rabbits, and being unable to get Bugs Bunny because he is just too smart. Now, a British scientist hypothesizes that Neandertal Man died out because he was unable to take advantage of rabbits as a food source:
Dr John Stewart, Associate Professor in Paleoecology and Environmental Change at Bournemouth University (BU), is part of a team which analysed data on rabbit bone remains, found in archaeological excavations of caves in the Iberian Peninsula. They found that while rabbits were a crucial part of the modern humans’ diet, they were relatively under-utilised by Neanderthals.
“Rabbits originated in Iberia and they are a very special kind of resource, in that they can be found in large numbers, they are relatively easy to catch and they are predictable,” said Dr Stewart. “This means that they are quite a good food source to target. The fact that the Neanderthals did not appear to do so suggests that this was a resource they did not have access to in the same way as modern humans.”Even I can catch a rabbit.
The fact that Neanderthals – typically associated with hunting large prey over short distances in woodland settings – were seemingly unable to catch and kill such creatures is compounded by rapid changes in the environment. “The climate was changing and the ecology was decreasing in terms of the amount of animals they were able to hunt,” Dr Stewart explained. “If Neanderthals were more tied to these large mammals, the loss of them could have driven them to extinction.”
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Evidence that modern humans were more able to hunt across large, open spaces – and used technological innovations such as twine and traps to help them catch faster,smaller prey, including rabbits – suggests that they adapted better to this change in surroundings. Dr Stewart said: “Modern humans had more that they could do – they had more possibilities and were more able to cope with the deterioration of climate than Neanderthals were. If modern humans thrived when Neanderthals did not, it must mean that modern humans were better at exploiting resources than Neanderthals.”Unable to find a suitable "cave girl" with a rabbit, how about an unsuitable one? Maybe she could have caught a rabbit. . .
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