Bigger brains evolved to cope with dim light

August 8th, 2011 - 1:45 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Aug 8 (IANS) Human beings living at higher latitudes developed bigger brains than their equatorial counterparts to be able to see better in low light areas.

Higher latitudes, characterised by dull, grey, cloudy skies and long winters, necessitated bigger eyes and brains to help humans visually process what they see, says a new study.

Researchers from Oxford University measured the eye socket and brain volumes of 55 skulls, dating from the 1800s, representing 12 different populations from across the globe, reports the journal Biology Letters.

These skulls were from the population of England, Australia, Canary Islands, China, France, India, Kenya, Micronesia, Scandinavia, Somalia, Uganda and the US, according to an Oxford statement.

The volume of the eye sockets and brain cavities were then plotted against the latitude of the central point of each individual’s country of origin. They matched.

Eiluned Pearce, evolutionary anthropologist at Oxford, who led the study, said: “As you move away from the equator, there’s less and less light available, so humans have had to evolve bigger and bigger eyes.

“Their brains also need to be bigger to deal with the extra visual input. Having bigger brains doesn’t mean that higher latitude humans are smarter, it just means they need bigger brains to be able to see well where they live,” said Pearce.

The research suggests that the biggest brains belonged to populations who lived in Scandinavia with the smallest being Micronesians.

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