Living in the dark causes bigger brains to evolve

Humans who live further from the equator have rapidly evolved bigger eyes and larger brains to better process the low light levels at those lofty latitudes.

Anthropologists collected 55 skulls, dating from the 1800s, that represented 12 different populations from around the globe. The researchers measured the eye socket and brain volumes and plotted them against the latitude of each individual’s country of origin.

The team found a significant positive correlation between the size of brain and the latitude of the country. People from the northern-European countries of Scandinavia had the biggest brains, while Micronesians, from just north of the equator, had the smallest.

The larger brains don’t necessarily relate to intelligence — bigger vision areas in the brain are required to help cope with the low light conditions caused by cloudy skies and long winters in northern territories. Learn more here.

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