Skull with associated mandible. en.wikipedia.org880

Skull with associated mandible. en.wikipedia.org880

The genomes of ancient Europeans reveal how human populations can change dramatically as a result of extreme climate fluctuations.

Little is known about human migrations and population changes in prehistory. Scientists often rely on scant archeological evidence to map anatomically modern humans’ settlements.

So a team of geneticists dug into the genomes of ancient individuals unearthed across Europe to better understand who was living in the region. The specimens lived before, during, and after the last ice age, offering the researchers a glimpse into how the population handled the extreme conditions.

And the ancient hunter-gatherers’ genomes suggested times were tough. When the massive glaciers retreated, the population of Europe looked dramatically different than it had before the land froze over.

“This change, which we call a turnover, was indeed strong and drastic,” first author of the study Cosimo Posth tells The Christian Science Monitor in an interview. And this dramatic population turnover likely wiped out a human lineage scientists thought never reached Europe, according to a paper published Thursday in the journal Current Biology.