September 11, 2012

Evolving bigger brains everywhere?

Peking Man (CC by Mutt)
New craniometric research on the NE Asian Homo erectus (also known as Peking Man or Homo erectus pekinensis) seems to confirm that the population grew bigger brains with limited external input. If correct, this may mean that the pressure towards bigger brains has been a generalized tendency in all Homo sp. populations. 

Late H. erectus pekinensis had cranial capacities above 1000 cc., in some cases bordering our own averages and certainly within our range

This research highlights that there is no apparent evolution in the shape of the head while the size did grow along time. However craniometry is a very inexact science.


3 comments:

  1. Just for comparison smaller, petite or pigmy peoples have a significantly smaller brain volume than the average modern human but it appears that their capacity for learning is not diminished from the human average. Seeing this in the modern population, it can be extrapolated that brain volume is not the greater issue. It is the basic brain architecture that that is more important for determining intelligence. Unfortunately it is difficult to determine this architecture from empty fossilized skulls.

    On another note, I see your European Neolithic Map section. Do you know of a reliable source for similar maps that show 1st farmers for the entire world or Eurasia/Africa?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Regarding the main issue, it's clear that size is only one factor, I recently commented on a new paper that pinpointed several brain regions whose complexity (and not just their size) is greatly increased in our brains relative to chimpanzee's. Size can only be a very rough proxy.

      Regarding the other question, I'm a bit ashamed that the neolithic maps page is the single page most visited of this blog yet I never really get myself to complete it (at least one or two maps more, right?)

      I don't know of such reliable maps for the whole world but it is something doable. Another issue is to actually do the work of documenting it all (I know better the European Neolithic than others) and then drawing the maps.

      Delete
  2. "Regarding the main issue, it's clear that size is only one factor"

    I remember reading that brain size is a function of climate, with people in colder climates having larger brains. But, as you both suggest, brain size is no indicator of 'intelligence':

    "smaller, petite or pigmy peoples have a significantly smaller brain volume than the average modern human but it appears that their capacity for learning is not diminished from the human average".

    Hot region.

    ReplyDelete

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