Paleoclimatic Variation and Brain Expansion during Human Evolution
- First Online:
- Cite this article as:
- Ash, J. & Gallup, G.G. Hum Nat (2007) 18: 109. doi:10.1007/s12110-007-9015-z
- 659 Downloads
One of the major adaptations during the evolution of Homo sapiens was an increase in brain size. Here we present evidence that a significant and substantial proportion of variation in brain size may be related to changes in temperature. Based on a sample of 109 fossilized hominid skulls, we found that cranial capacities were highly correlated with paleoclimatic changes in temperature, as indexed by oxygen isotope data and sea-surface temperature. Indeed, as much as 52% of the variance in the cranial capacity of these skulls could be accounted for by temperature variation at 100 ka intervals. As an index of more short-term seasonal fluctuations in temperature, we examined the latitude of the sites from which the crania originated. More than 22% of the variance in cranial capacity of these skulls could be accounted for by variation in equatorial distance.