Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Shrinking Primate Brain

According to a story from Yahoo news UK and Ireland, research now suggests that some primate brains, which have always been thought to be ever-expanding throughout primate evolutionary history may be shrinking and that this may apply to Homo floresiensis as well. The article notes:
Stephen Montgomery, one of the researchers from Cambridge University, said: "The discovery challenged our understanding of human evolution and created much debate about whether H. floresiensis was a distinct species or a diseased individual.

"Much of the debate about the place of H. floresiensis in the primate tree is centred around its small size, in particular the small brain size. The argument raised has been that the evolution of such a small brain does not fit with what we know about primate brain evolution.
In hindsight, this is not so unusual. Selection acts to mold species into what is best adapted for the environment that they are in. We have seen a shrinking of the modern human brain over that of Neandertals (a drop of about 300 cc) as well as a general shrinking of tooth size and facial size. It simply wasn't needed any longer.

Now playing: Anthony Phillips - Cradle Song (1979)
via FoxyTunes

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