Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) became extinct about 40,000 years ago. But the now-extinct hominids were once widespread across Europe and Western Asia for quite a long time, starting about 400,000 years ago.
When populations of Homo sapiens arrived in Europe from Africa about 45,000 years ago, things started to change for Neanderthals, according to Smithsonian Institute.
After 5,000 years since the settlement of Homo sapiens, Neanderthals became extinct. But what happened to them? Why did they perish while Homo sapiens continued to thrive even until today?
Some studies suggest that it may be due to interbreeding between the two species, but a recent study reveals that it might be genetic that involves about 900 genes. Neanderthals lack an important skill that experts only found in Homo sapiens.
Neanderthals Lacked Genes For Creativity
According to a new study from a team of scientists led by the University of Granada, entitled "Evolution of genetic networks for human creativity" published in Molecular Psychiatry, neanderthals and chimpanzees lack the creativity that Homo sapiens have that enabled them to survive.
The study examined 972 genes related to personality traits that are responsible for learning and memory. Explica reported that these genes are organized into three brain networks that evolved in stages, with the oldest network that emerged in monkeys and apes about 40 million years ago and responsible for emotional reactivity.
On the other hand, the second network emerged about two million years ago which is responsible for self-control. Finally, the third network that relates to creative self-awareness emerged around 100,000 years ago.
Out of the 972 genes they examined, they found that chimpanzees and Neanderthals do not have 267 of them but Homo sapiens have. These are the genes linked to creative self-awareness that gave the latter their advantage over Neanderthals 40,000 years ago.
Furthermore, most of these 267 genes that distinguished modern humans from Neanderthals are RNA regulatory genes and not protein-coding genes.
Scientists used genetic markers, gene expression data, brain MRI integrated based on AI techniques to identify the regions in which these genes the genes they interacted with were overexpressed.
They found that these brain regions are involved in creativity and self-awareness, like those regions that are strongly linked to human well-being and of the recent phylogenetic emergence around 100,000 years ago.
Creativity Helped Modern Humans Live Longer and Healthier Lives
According to an article posted on the Laboratory Equipment website, the researchers believe that creativity encouraged cooperation between Homo sapiens to ensure the success of the next generation and their community.
It could have started the efforts for technological innovation, behavioral flexibility, and openness to exploration that are all crucial for the survival of Homo sapiens and to spread across the world more successfully than previous human lineages.
The researchers wrote that living longer and healthier together have made learning and accumulating knowledge possible for Homo sapiens.
Relating their study to present times, the researchers believe that it can help promote human well-being and increase creativity to solve and overcome critical situations that modern humans face every day.
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