People from northern parts of the world have evolved bigger brains and larger eyes to cope with long, dark winters and dim skies, scientists said on Wednesday.
Researchers from Oxford University studied the eye sockets and brain capacity of 55 human skulls from 12 different populations across the world and found that the further human populations live from the equator, the bigger their brains.
However, it is not because they are smarter, but because they need bigger vision areas in the brain to cope with the low light levels at high latitudes, the scientists said in a report of their findings in the journal Biology Letters.
“As you move away from the equator there’s less and less light available, so humans have had to evolve bigger and bigger eyes,” said Eiluned Pearce from Oxford’s School of Anthropology, who led the study. “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.”
The skulls used in the study dated back to the 1800s and included samples from the indigenous populations of England, Australia, Canary Islands, China, France, India, Kenya, Micronesia, Scandinavia, Somalia, Uganda and the US.
The researchers plotted the volume of the eye sockets and brain cavities against the latitude of the central point of each individual’s country of origin and found that the size of both the brain and the eyes could be directly linked to the latitude of the country.
Oxford’s Robin Dunbar, who also worked on the study, said the results showed the speed at which humans had evolved to cope with the challenges of new habitats.
“Humans have only lived at high latitudes in Europe and Asia for a few tens of thousands of years, yet they seem to have adapted their visual systems surprisingly rapidly to the cloudy skies, dull weather and long winters,” he said.
The researchers said that from measuring the brain cavity, the study suggested the biggest brains belonged to populations who lived in Scandinavia, and the smallest belonged to Micronesians.
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
ACADEMIC FREEDOM: One professor told her students to submit anonymized papers and not to record any online classes. Some US schools have announced similar steps Students at Oxford University specializing in the study of China are being asked to submit some papers anonymously to protect them from the possibility of retribution under the sweeping new security law introduced three months ago in Hong Kong. The anonymity ruling is to be applied in classes, and group tutorials are to be replaced by one-to-ones. Students are also to be warned that it will be viewed as a disciplinary offence if they tape classes or share them with outside groups. The Hong Kong National Security Law was imposed on June 30 by Beijing after more than a year of pro-democracy
Japan’s government yesterday urged people to seek help if they were struggling to cope, following Sunday’s death of the popular actress and Miss Sherlock star Yuko Takeuchi, 40. News of her death shocked the nation and follows other recent cases of Japanese celebrities taking their lives, with figures showing a recent rise in suicides. Takeuchi was a household name in Japan and had given birth to her second child in January. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato did not mention a particular case, but said that some people were struggling to cope during the COVID-19 pandemic. “There has been an uptick in the number
China on Thursday lashed out at the US at a high-level UN meeting over its criticism on the COVID-19 pandemic, with its envoy declaring, “Enough is enough.” Two days after US President Donald Trump used his annual address to the General Assembly to attack China’s record, US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft, also took an outraged tone — after which her Chinese counterpart showed palpable anger. “I must say, enough is enough. You have created enough troubles for the world already,” Chinese Ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun (張軍) told a Security Council meeting on global governance attended through videoconference