lets say this island is an exact copy of the climate and ecosystem of tropical India. how might Neanderthals evolve in order to survive this environment?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ If there are no homo sapiens sapiens around, then presumably there's nothing there to out-compete them, or dilute their population by interbreeding - why would they need to evolve at all, what are the pressures on them to not just stay pretty much as they are? It's not like they lacked intelligence, tool use and therefore some adaptability. Are other hominins present and of what types? $\endgroup$ Apr 22 '20 at 2:06
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ neanderthals are not going to enjoy the tropic. they are built to conserve heat. denisovians are more likely than neanderthal, they actually lived in the region. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Apr 22 '20 at 2:30
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Would anyone even notice? Homo sapiens would keep migrating around the world and eventually you'd get a lot of interbreeding with the Neanderthals there and they'd be integrated into the larger population. Indeed this kind of happened with Semang, Batek, Maniq, and others, who thought to be descended from early waves of Homo sapiens migration from Africa (not Neanderthal) and ended up being minority groups within (and intermixing with) a population mostly composed of groups descended from later migrants. And then there are the Denisovan genes in Austronesian populations... $\endgroup$ Apr 22 '20 at 2:44
  • $\begingroup$ I am disinclined to VTC - it has a broad scope for answering but the situation itself is pretty limited: Neanderthals in India; how would they adapt to their surroundings? However I will downvote the question as it does not show any research and gives no starting point, leaving the answerer with a lot of extra work. $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Apr 22 '20 at 9:28

Are you basing this on a situation that already exists? The Sentinelese of North Sentinel Island in the Andamans (off the Indian coast) pretty much fit the conditions you've outlined, except that they are not neanderthals but Sapiens. Very little is known about them because they're voluntary isolationists with no desire to communicate with the rest of the world. From the little we know, they seem to have adapted fairly well to their circumstances, the few individuals observed have been healthy with no signs of disease and their technology still seems to revolve around basic tools.

Neanderthals have some similarities with sapiens in similar conditions. Primarily, both neanderthals and sapiens are subject to the Boserupian trap i.e. low populations discourage surplus use of resources, reducing innovation which in turn prevents populations from reducing their death rates. Therefore, a small community on a small island with no contact with the outside world is not likely to evolve technologically unless something special boosts population growth (As a contrast, consider river valleys which have a combination of high water reserves and rich soil, which encourages human beings to settle down and multiply, designing new technologies to deal with higher population growth rates).

On the other hand, there are significant differences Neanderthal physique seems most adaptable to cold climates as opposed to warm. Their physiques seem to have evolved to store greater heat. What this implies is that neanderthals are less likely to survive in a tropical climate. There may be exceptions though - for instance, they may evolve to survive in shadier, cooler parts of tropical islands (for instance, in caves or thick forests or closer to water). What we might see is an example of analogous evolution, where neanderthals develop physiques or characteristics similar to sapiens, not due to genetics but due to similar environmental factors. It's unlikely that they'll reach the same levels of metabolism as sapiens in a tropical island though and their communities are likely to be smaller and more precarious.

  • $\begingroup$ I think the Sentinelese are descendents of the early (~70,000 ka) migration wave of Homo sapiens as well, with most of the surrounding people descended from later waves of migration. So basically the only difference between them and OP's question is they aren't Neanderthals. $\endgroup$ Apr 22 '20 at 18:20

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.