Middle Paleolithic Neanderthal populations occupied Eurasia for at least 250,000 years prior to the arrival of anatomically modern humans. While a considerable body of archaeological research has focused on Neanderthal material culture and subsistence strategies, little attention has been paid to the relationship between regionally specific cultural trajectories and their associated existing fundamental ecological niches, nor to how the latter varied across periods of climatic variability. We examine the Middle Paleolithic archaeological record of a naturally constrained region of Western Europe between 82,000 and 60,000 years ago using ecological niche modeling methods. Evaluations of ecological niche estimations, in both geographic and environmental dimensions, indicate that 70,000 years ago the range of suitable habitats exploited by these Neanderthal populations contracted and shifted. These ecological niche dynamics are the result of groups continuing to occupy habitual territories that were characterized by new environmental conditions during Marine Isotope Stage 4. The development of original cultural adaptations permitted this territorial stability.
Banks, W.E., Moncel, MH., Raynal, JP. et al. An ecological niche shift for Neanderthal populations in Western Europe 70,000 years ago. Sci Rep 11, 5346 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-84805-6
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