July 31, 2018 07:16 PM EDT
As the last human survivors on the planet, there are many reasons to celebrate about Homo sapiens. Particularly, a new study says, the adaptability of the species.
Unlike other hominins such as the Neanderthals and Homo erectus, Homo sapiens is able to occupy and use a wide range of different environments, even the most extreme ones. Scientists say that this ability to roll with the blows could be the reason for the survival of the species even when their cousins die.
Homo Sapiens flourished in a variety of landscapes
In an article published in the journal Nature Human Behavior researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and the University of Michigan suggest that the Homo sapiens survived other hominids due to its "unique ecological plasticity".
From Africa, where the first of the genus Homo emerged about 3 million years ago, humans dispersed in search of greener pastures. Homo erectus, Homo neanderthalensis and other members of the genus made their way through Europe and Asia for many millennia, but these species clung mainly to forests and meadows.
Meanwhile, Homo sapiens ventured and thrived in more exotic landscapes in 80,000 to 50,000 years ago. These extreme scenarios include paleo-arctic locations and rainforest conditions in Asia, Melanesia and the Americas, as well as deserts and mountain peaks in Africa and Asia.
There is no evidence that other species of homonines have lived for a long time in the same challenge places that Homo sapiens made of their home.
A new ecological niche
After tracking the journey of Homo sapiens, the team suggests that the modern human species developed a completely new ecological niche as a "generalist specialist."  The main author, Dr. Patrick Roberts, explains that there is a traditional ecological dichotomy between what are known as "generalists" who use different resources and live in a variety of environmental conditions and "specialists" whose diet and environmental tolerance They are quite limited.
However, Homo sapiens provides evidence of "specialized" populations, such as collectors of the mountain rainforest or paleoartic mammoth hunters, exis within what is traditionally defined as a "generalist" species, Roberts continues. .
What these findings mean
Although the authors caution that their suggestions remain hypothetical, the new generalist specialist niche could spur further studies on extreme environments that could yield more information about ancient humans.
It also demonstrates the importance of the environmental factor in the study of the first humans.
"[An] the ecological perspective on the origins and nature of our species potentially illuminates the unique Homo sapiens route as it quickly came to dominate the various continents and environments of the Earth," notes Roberts.
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