Tuesday, March 15, 2005

On human extinctions

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Experts weigh supervolcano risks

The BBC is doing a show on super volcanoes. These are supposed to happen every 100,000 years or so. They're as devastating as a really major meteor impact but five times more common. On the other hand, we think we might be able to avert a meteor strike. Volanoes ... well, probably not much to do there.

This quote, however, really suprised me:
One past super-eruption struck at Toba in Sumatra 74,000 years ago and is thought by some to have driven the human race to the edge of extinction. Signs from DNA suggest human numbers could have dropped to about 10,000, probably as a result of the effects of climate change."
Huh? I recall the 10K number from estimates of the origins of Homo sapiens sapiens, but that's 250K years ago. This is the first I've heard that we just about went down the tubes a mere 74K years ago. I think Home Floriensis and Homo sapiens neanderthalis both survived that period. Neaderthal man might have been better adopted to cold than other humans; I wonder if they would have flourished after the eruption.

Anyway, I want to learn more.

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