By Tia Ghose
The microbes that live in and on humans may have evolved to preferentially take down the elderly in the population, a new computer model suggests.
That, in turn, could have allowed children a greater share of food and resources, thereby enabling an extended childhood. Such a microbial bias may also have kept the first human populations more stable and resilient to upheavals, the findings suggest.
“If you go back 30,000 to 40,000 years ago, there were only 30,000 to 40,000 people in the world and they were scattered over Africa, Europe, and parts of Asia,” study co-author Glenn Webb, a mathematician at Vanderbilt University, said in a statement. “Are we lucky just to be here? Or did we survive because our ancestors were robust enough to handle all the environmental changes and natural disasters they encountered?”
The new findings suggest that humans survived because as a whole, ancestral human populations were tough enough to survive the environment, he said.
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