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Did the Neanderthaler have too large eyes?

by Andre
Tags: eyes, neanderthaler
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Andre
#1
Apr8-13, 02:03 PM
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Pierce et al 2013 compare numerous skulls of the Neanderthal with modern man and note much larger 'visual systems' and ...

...that when this, along with their greater body mass, is taken into account, Neanderthals have significantly smaller adjusted endocranial capacities than contemporary AMHs. We discuss possible implications of differing brain organization in terms of social cognition, and consider these in the context of differing abilities to cope with fluctuating resources and cultural maintenance.
In other words they think that the advantage of having more let's say 'brain power' for Homo sapiens versus having a better eye sight for the Neanderthals gave the former the edge, leading to the extinction of the latter.

It occurs to me that this is merely a hypothesis, -it's all about the scientific method- and it will be hard do predictions and find evidence to confirm such a speculation.
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Simon Bridge
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Apr9-13, 01:22 AM
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It sounds like they are saying that although some Neanderthals appear to show a comparable (or better) brain-to-body-mass ratio to Homo Sapiens, it does not imply similar cognition. The authors speculate that much of their brains were taken up with vision rather than reasoning and social networking.

Of course, it could just be that Neanderthals were smarter and more cultured than us in their time and died out anyway. A lot of people find this idea upsetting. Investigating brain organization is fine but drawing social conclusions from it is problematical at best.

iirc: Neanderthals are thought to have died out, primarily, due to climate changes and isolation.
Tzikin
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Jun6-13, 01:30 PM
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The Genome project has found that between 1 and 4% Neanderthal in modern non-Africans so it appears that they did not die out. For instance it has been suggested that red hair is a Neanderthal gene.

This evidence really means that we have to forget all of the old speculation about the extinction of Neanderthals as a species and questions of competition. The population density was so low and the two species had such different diets and lifestyles that they did not need to compete genocidally.

We really are having to rethink everything about Neanderthal.

So few genomes have been tested that we could eventually find that white skin, blue eyes, all blond to brown hair and straight hair are also Neanderthal traits rather than Sapiens. That would really blow the subjective, Victorian Sapiens supremacists' argument out of the water.

jim mcnamara
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Jun6-13, 02:22 PM
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Did the Neanderthaler have too large eyes?

A link for the paper about "red hair gene" in Neanderthals:

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/318/5850/546.short
The melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R) regulates pigmentation in humans and other vertebrates. Variants of MC1R with reduced function are associated with pale skin color and red hair in humans of primarily European origin. We amplified and sequenced a fragment of the MC1R gene (mc1r) from two Neanderthal remains. Both specimens have a mutation that was not found in ∼3700 modern humans analyzed. Functional analyses show that this variant reduces MC1R activity to a level that alters hair and/or skin pigmentation in humans. The impaired activity of this variant suggests that Neanderthals varied in pigmentation levels, potentially on the scale observed in modern humans. Our data suggest that inactive MC1R variants evolved independently in both modern humans and Neanderthals.
Note that in mentions "evolved independently", not that modern humans derived it from Neanderthals.
Simon Bridge
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Jun7-13, 01:34 AM
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...they did not need to compete genocidally
... early humans didn't need to stampede whole herds of Mammoths over a cliff to get just one either but they did. Neither did modern humans have to kill all the dodos. Considering human behavior in the historical context, "did not need to" is not a strong argument against.

I'm with Jim on the gene - since Neanderthals and modern humans probably had a common ancestor, and the European origin, red hair could easily have been convergent evolution. It's neat that it is possible to extract identifiable genes from remains that old now though.


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