From UK Guardian:
The puzzle is one of the greatest surrounding our species. On a planet that bristled with different types of human being, including Neanderthals and the Hobbit-like folk of Flores, only one is left today: Homo sapiens.
Our current solo status on Earth is therefore an evolutionary oddity – though it is not clear when our species became Earth’s only masters, nor is it clear why we survived when all other versions of humanity died out. Did we kill off our competitors, or were the others just poorly adapted and unable to react to the extreme climatic fluctuations that then beset the planet?…
In other words, there was a long, gradual takeover by modern humans – an idea that is likely to be demolished at this week’s conference, Stringer said. Results from the five-year research programme, Reset (Response of humans to abrupt environmental transitions), will show that modern humans arrived much earlier than previously estimated and that Neanderthals expired earlier than we thought. Careful dating of finds across Europe suggest Homo sapiens could have reached Europe 45,000 years ago. Five thousand years later, Neanderthals had largely disappeared.
“Previous research on Neanderthal sites which suggested that they were more recent than 40,000 years old appears to be wrong,” said Stringer. “That is a key finding that will be discussed at the conference.”…
So what did kill off the Neanderthals? Given the speed at which they seem to have disappeared from the planet after modern humans spread out of Africa, it is likely that Homo sapiens played a critical role in their demise. That does not mean we chased them down and killed them – an unlikely scenario given their muscular physiques. However, we may have been more successful at competing for resources, as recent research has suggested….
Neanderthals and modern humans are believed to have evolved from a common ancestor, Homo heidelbergensis, about 400,000 years ago. Homo heidelbergensis then existed in Europe, Africa and Asia.
It is thought the species evolved into Neanderthals in Europe and into Homo sapiens in Africa. Neanderthals had more muscle and were broader than modern humans, an adaptation to Europe’s colder environment. Homo sapiens was better able to lose body heat, a key response to the conditions in Africa. Homo sapiens began to evolve artistic skills and a capacity for symbolic thinking.
About 60,000 years ago, modern humans migrated from Africa into Asia and Europe. It is not known when they first met Neanderthals, but at least once, in one location, there was a positive outcome – for genetic evidence suggests some interbreeding took place between the species. As a result, tiny fragments of Neanderthal DNA live on in our genes.