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Climate change led to extinction of early humans from Shivaliks, say experts

Primates, including early humans, became extinct from the Shivaliks -- a mountainous region in the outer Himalayas -- at the end of the Myocene era (between 22.5 and 5 million years ago) due to changes in climate and environment, experts said.

dehradun Updated: Jan 30, 2018 21:59 IST
Abhinav Madhwal
Abhinav Madhwal
Hindustan Times
Uttarakhand News,Shivaliks,Primates
In zoology, a primate refers to a mammal of the group that includes monkeys, apes and humans, among others. Primates became extinct from the Shivaliks at the end of the Myocene era. (REUTERS File)

Primates, including early humans, became extinct from the Shivaliks -- a mountainous region in the outer Himalayas -- at the end of the Myocene era (between 22.5 and 5 million years ago) due to changes in climate and environment, experts said.

In zoology, a primate refers to a mammal of the group that includes monkeys, apes and humans, among others.

At a workshop, professor Rajan Gaur from Punjab University, Chandigarh, said fossils from the Shivaliks, particularly those from areas near Bilaspur in Himachal Pradesh, have been analysed to find out environmental conditions that existed in the region in pre-historic times.

The two-day workshop on ‘Shivalik excavations: A journey of homo sapiens’, conducted by the Anthropological Survey of India, began here on Tuesday.

Recovery of ape and human fossils from the middle Shivaliks of Haryana and Ramnagar in Jammu and Kashmir suggested that they had lived in a forested environment, Gaur said. The fossils include that of Sivapithecus and Gigantopithecus (6-7 feet tall when upright), which were extinct genus of ape.

He said the presence of horse remains indicated presence of open grasslands. “At the end of the Myocene era, environmental changes occurred with an increase in altitude of the Himalayas. The tropical climate changed to seasonal climate and the advent of monsoons was witnessed,” Gaur said.

“The season change led to dryness. Grasses, called C4 plants, grew in this era. The climate change led to the death of the primates.”

Neeraj Rai, a scientist at Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences in Lucknow, said DNA samples and organic remains of homo sapiens (scientific name for human species), collected from the Shivalik area, were being analysed.

“The oxygen isotope of tooth samples will reveal the quality of water drunk by the primates and homo sapiens; the carbon isotope will reveal the type of food consumed, whether they ate meat or were herbivores,” he said.

Roopkund skeletal remains

Rai said DNA testing and accelerated mass spectropmetry (AMS) have been conducted on the skeletal remains of humans found in the “mysterious” Roopkund lake in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand to find out their origins.

“AMS study showed that all the humans died at the same time, meaning it was an act which took place in the same time period. The stuff that will be published in international journals might show some new facts on the skeletons,” he said.

First Published: Jan 30, 2018 21:59 IST