Why did Neanderthals die out while other hominids survived? In an article published in the Journal of Human Evolution, John E. Fa and colleagues argue that it may be because Neanderthals were unable to adapt their hunting techniques to small game, such as rabbits:
Fa and his colleagues counted up the skeletons of animals found in three excavation sites in Spain and southern France. Up until 30,000 years ago, the remains of large animals such as deer were abundant in caves. But around that time, coinciding with the disappearance of Neanderthals, rabbit remains became more prevalent. The authors postulate that humans were more successful at switching to catching and eating rabbits.
It's not clear why Neanderthals would have had more trouble changing prey, says Fa. They may have been less able to cooperate. Rather than using spears, early humans probably surrounded a warren and flushed out rabbits with fire, smoke or dogs. But Bruce Hardy of Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, says Fa takes the interpretation too far. Humans may have eaten more rabbits than Neanderthals, but neither would have exclusively eaten meat, he says.