The causes of Neanderthal extinction and the transition with the modern man in Europe and Near East remain largely uncertain. The two main factors currently proposed are the arrival of a modern human competitor and/or the aptitude of the Neanderthals to survive rapidly changing climatic conditions. None of these hypotheses is fully satisfactory because the Neanderthals experienced other large climatic changes and the duration of overlap of the two populations remains largely unknown and even uncertain. No special attention has been given to the geomagnetic excursions of Laschamp and Mono Lake which are synchroneous with the extinction and were the most dramatic events encountered by the Neanderthals over the past 250 thousand years of their existence. During this period the geomagnetic field strength was considerably reduced and the shielding efficiency of the magnetosphere lowered, leaving energetic particles reach latitudes as low as 30 degrees. The enhanced flux of high-energy protons (linked to solar activity) into the atmosphere yielded significant ozone depletion down to latitudes of 40-45 degrees. A direct consequence was an increase of the UV-B radiations at the surface which might have reached at least 15-20% in Europe with significant impacts on health of human populations. We suggest that these conditions, added to some other factors, contributed to the demise of Neanderthal population. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Valet, Jean-Pierre Valladas, Helene