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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  • RE: What are the advantages of sapiens' rounder brain-skulls?
    • Marc Verhaegen, Medical Doctor, Study Center for Anthropology, B-2580 Belgium.

    Thanks a lot for this very interesting paper. It helps explain how we got more globular heads. But why did Homo sapiens (as opposed to archaic Homo) evolve this? In my opinion, the answer is not so difficult in the light of the Littoral Theory: early-Pleistocene (archaic) Homo dispersed intercontinentally following African and southern Eurasian coasts, and then from the coasts also ventured inland along rivers, lakes and wetlands, or on the other side colonized overseas islands. At the waterside, they often waded bipedally and even dived for different sorts of waterside and shallow-aquatic foods. This theory best explains the dramatic brain enlargement we see in archaic Homo: they had access to the rich brain-specific nutrients such as DHA, iodine, taurine and oligo-elements in shell- and crayfish as well as stranded whales or drowned herbivores (e.g. Cunnane & Stewart eds 2010 "Human Brain Evolution: The Influence of Freshwater and Marine Food Resources" Wiley NJ). The littoral theory also explains the very heavy, thick and dense skeletons of H.erectus and (in a lesser degree) of H.neanderthalensis (e.g. Verhaegen & Munro 2011 "Pachyosteosclerosis suggests archaic Homo frequently collected sessile littoral foods" J.compar.hum.Biol. 62:237-247). Brain enlargement and pachy-osteo-sclerosis (POS) are typical of littoral mammals, and mammals that frequently dive for food (e.g. pinnipeds, cetaceans etc.) show long and flattened skulls (probably for...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.

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