Anyone stuck with glasses knows the envy of those with killer eyesight. But visual acuity apparently came at a price, at least for Neanderthals. According to a paper published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B this week, Neanderthals' visual acuity in the low-light conditions of northern Europe -- much higher than that of Homo sapiens -- came at the cost of other cognitive skills, such as extended social networks and innovation maintenance.
Researchers at Oxford University compared the sizes of the orbital sockets (the holes in the skull where eyeballs go) to the size of the visual cortex (the part of the brain tasked with interpreting visual information) of five diurnal primate species: Humans, Rhesus macaques, marmosets, squirrel monkeys and brown-mantled tamarins. The results were clear: the size (volume) the visual cortex in each of these species is proportional to the size of the orbital sockets (and thus, the scientists inferred, the eyeballs themselves). The scientists then measured the orbital sockets of a number of Neanderthal skulls and of modern humans alive at the same time as the Neanderthals, and deduced what the volume of the visual cortex in those individuals would have been.
The researchers found that Neanderthals that lived 25-75K years ago had a much higher proportion of their brains dedicated to visual processing, even when compared with anatomically modern humans living during the same time period. This specialization of their brains, the scientists propose, mean that less neural tissue was left over for higher-order reasoning, problem-solving and creating elaborate social networks. This would limit the Neanderthals' abilities to, for example, trade for resources not endemic to their local habitat, or in times of local scarcity. Additionally, the scientists claim, Neanderthals' ability to develop or learn new technologies could have suffered due to their brains' specialization on visual acuity.
The researchers sum up their findings thusly:
Whereas [anatomically modern humans] appear to have concentrated neural investment in social adaptations to solve ecological problems, Neanderthals seem to have adopted an alternative strategy that involved enhanced vision coupled with retention of the physical robusticity of H. heidelbergensis, but not superior social cognition. […] While the physical response to high latitude conditions adopted by Neanderthals may have been very effective at first, the social response developed by AMHs seems to have eventually won out in the face of the climatic instability that characterized high-latitude Eurasia at this time.
Oh my gosh, this story undermines the existence of the BIG eye GREY aliens; the myth crumbles to the floor. Waaaa! Though, this article does explain why big blue blondes tend to look like dear staring at bright headlights so much! LOL
Best go and tell those Sumerians to scratch those entire big eye alien drawings of the tablets too and all the wall and cave paintings around the world.
Bull-dookie. That a lot like saying you have to upgrade your camera back because you added a lens that works better in lower light.
Science has suffered the McDonald's effect.
Here is a good read:
Didn't Neanderthals have bigger brain cases? Just looking at this picture the skull is much larger. The logic in this research doesn't support the conclusion.
So... big eyes=stupid, huh? There is SO little real facts in this science field. These guys won't stop until they "discover" their sub-human man-monkey. (sorry, won't happen no matter how much they strain their jewels)
Honestly, I know we get a clearer portrayal of cavemen from GEICO commercials than we ever will from these guys.
@AnyIcon :) very funny blonde ref.
WAIT... Are these researchers really proposing that ethnic groups with large visual cortexes have inferior brain capacity and lower IQ's? Really?
How about you actually read the paper instead of spreading your ignorant garbage?
@Ebrainer1, yes I read it and understood it.
Where specifically did you feel I missed the mark on?
A) My frustration that this field can't seem to separate their wish-theories with provable, repeatable science that won't be disproven three papers later?
B) AnyIcon's great joke about doe-eyes blondes?
C) My noting the danger of projecting an agenda-theory on a simple cranial measurement?
Sure are a lot conclusions being made on the basis of what is essentially a press release about an academic article!
That bring said, there are three assumptions that should be adressed (and may be in the article):
(1) the neural density of all primates, in this case, Homo Sapiens Sapiens and Homo Sapien Neaderthalensis, is the same.
(2) the complexity of each subspecies' neural networks is the same.
(3) neurons in each species store the same amount of data.
The results from comparative primate brain studies may make these assumptions seem trivial. While Neaderthat DNA has been recovered there have been no carcasses recovered from permafrost that I know of...much less carcasses with intact brain cases.
The scientists wrote a paper, discussing their findings of a comparison of brain skulls. Not once in the article did they mention any theory. Not till your comment do we have the mention of 'wish-theories' and 'agenda-theories'.
You should brush up on the scientific method because it's a lot less involved with coming up with new theories all the time then you seem to think.
Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former.
- Albert Einstein
@norbytherobot (great einstein quote by he way)
Article quotes: "This would limit the Neanderthals' abilities to, for example, trade for resources not endemic to their local habitat, or in times of local scarcity."----
How can this not be seen as speculation? Neanderthals were incapable of trading for stuff because their eyes used up too much of their brain? Come on, let's step back and look what is really speculation.
We should expect hypotheses to be debunked every digging season, not facts.
OMFH end the unceasing inferences and just clone the bastards
If your brain is contemplating what it sees, then it is thinking about what it sees and remembering too.
If the Neanderthal had little communication skills, no writing, then yes remember what it saw would be more important.
I wish I could remember everything I see, sheesh!
This is like trying to reverse engineer a Galaxy S3 by examining only the out line in the packaging it came in.
@kT Best explaination ever.
I like to see a bunch of Neanderthals play football.
I believe it would be awesome!
Austrailian aboriginal people seem to have the same robust skull with larger eye sockets.