Nature versus Man Number 5: The Toba Supervolcano eruption, 74000 BCE
This is part of a series which is intended to show that we are not necessarily the architecs of our future. Sometimes, unexpected events shape our history in ways that we cannot imagine.
This topic came to a complete surprise to me, I must humbly accept that I knew nothing about it. I am referring to the existence of supervolcanoes. These are enormous deposits of magma that erupt from very large areas every tens or hundreds of thousands of years. I learned that the whole Yellowstone National Park is the largest supervolcano! and it erupts every 600000 years. (Approximately of course). These eruptions have been colossal events on a global scale. They have driven the extinction of species through catastrophic changes in the environment.
The specific event that I mentioned in the title is the eruption of Toba, the supervolcano that exists close to the island of Sumatra. This has been the only supervolcano eruption in which Homo sapiens has suffered its consequences. According to the evolutionary evidence, we, as species should have a greater genetic variability. This is taking into account that homo sapiens exists for about 200000 years in the planet. However, it has been a mystery, the reason why we are not as variable as predicted by the longevity of our species. Archaelogical and geological evidence has surfaced regarding a massive volcanic eruption in Toba, Sumatra around 74000 years ago. This has been associated with the genetic variability of Homo sapiens which seems to be a 700000-80000 year old species according to this parameter. Following complicated genetic and statistical models, it has been determined that the population of Homo sapiens was reduced to 1000-10000 individuals in eastern Africa. Modern man almost went extinct then. It took more than 40000 years for modern humans to repopulate the affected areas again and start replacing the populations of Homo neanderthalensis and Homo erectus that prevailed in Europe and Asia, respectively.
Events of this magnitude have happened before, they do not belong to science fiction. I am not being pessimistic or anything like that, I just want to raise the awareness of how weak we are compared to the forces of nature.
Nature sometimes works in ways we cannot predict.