In DepthHUMAN EVOLUTION

Why modern humans have round heads

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Science  14 Dec 2018:
Vol. 362, Issue 6420, pp. 1229
DOI: 10.1126/science.362.6420.1229-a

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Summary

Neanderthals have odd heads, stretched from front to back like a football rather than round like a basketball, as in living people. But why our heads and those of our ice age cousins look different has long been a mystery. Now, researchers have found an ingenious way to identify genes that help explain the contrast. By analyzing traces of Neanderthal DNA that linger in Europeans from their ancestors' trysts, researchers have identified two Neanderthal gene variants linked to slightly less globular head shape in living people. The genes also influence brain organization, offering a clue to how evolution acting on the brain might have reshaped the skull.