Early humans may have hibernated to survive harsh winters

WION Web Team
New Delhi Published: Dec 20, 2020, 06.40 PM(IST)

Representative image Photograph:( Twitter )

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Juan-Luis Arsuaga and Antonis Bartsiokas of Democritus University of Thrace in Greece have based their theory on study of bones found in  Sima de los Huesos (The pit of bones), cave in northern Spain that has fossilised remains of bones of early humans that inhabited the region half a million years ago

We know that animals like bears go into hibernation, or prolonged periods of sleep to survive unforgiving winters in polar regions and other cold places. But we humans don't feel the need to sleep for weeks or months at a time right? All we need to do is wear appropriate clothes?

That may be the reality for us in modern times but researchers have now said that early humans hibernated to survive through winter.

The research has been published in the scientific journal L’Anthropologie. In their research, Juan-Luis Arsuaga and Antonis Bartsiokas of Democritus University of Thrace in Greece have based their theory on study of bones found in  Sima de los Huesos (The pit of bones), a cave in northern Spain that contains fossilised remains of bones of early humans that inhabited the region half a million years ago.

The cave is a mass grave, say researchers who have found large number of remains of bones and human teeth. These belonged to Neanderthal humans.

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The bones show a peculiarity. The bone show signs that their growth was disrupted. This shows seasonal variation, as per the researchers. This, say the researchers, shows that the bone growth was disrupted for several months in a year. This disruption was due to hibernation, they say.

These humans found themselves “in metabolic states that helped them to survive for long periods of time in frigid conditions with limited supplies of food and enough stores of body fat” say the researchers in their paper. In essence, the researcher say that these humans hibernated during winter months to cope with extreme cold and shortage of food.

The researchers admit that this may sound like science fiction but point out that mammals such as bushbabies and lemurs do this.

“This suggests that the genetic basis and physiology for such a hypometabolism could be preserved in many mammalian species including humans,” say the researchers.

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