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Palaeontology

Did large eyes wipe out the Neanderthals ?

By T.K. Randall
August 7, 2015 · Comment icon 15 comments



Did having larger eyes ultimately doom the Neanderthals ? Image Credit: CC BY-SA 2.0 Tim Evanson
A controversial new theory suggests that large eyes may have put the Neanderthals at a disadvantage.
While having large eyes might sound like an ideal adaptation for seeing in the dark there is a hidden downside - a larger percentage of the brain is needed to deal with all that extra visual information.

This is the basis for a radical new theory put forward by Eiluned Pearce and his team at the University of Oxford who propose that the extra brain power needed to support the Neanderthals' enhanced vision meant that other parts of their brain, in particular those that deal with social networking, were less developed - a disadvantage when it came to competing with modern man.

Homo sapiens evolved in Africa and moved to Europe around 45,000 years ago where they co-existed with the Neanderthals for at least 5,000 years. All too soon however our prehistoric cousins started to disappear and may have gone extinct as early as 40,000 years ago.

"Since Neanderthals evolved at higher latitudes and also have bigger bodies than modern humans, more of the Neanderthal brain would have been dedicated to vision and body control, leaving less brain to deal with other functions like social networking," said Pearce.
This meant that the Neanderthals were less equipped to deal with major threats such as changes in the climate or competition with their modern human counterparts.

Not everyone however subscribes to this theory.

"If we could believe that logic, we would expect Neanderthals to be better social animals than we are today," said John Hawks of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"Now, we don't believe any of it: we actually think that eyes have nothing to do with social groups."

Source: BBC.com | Comments (15)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #6 Posted by Calibeliever 7 years ago
Admittedly most of what I know about Neanderthals has come from reading Jean Auel books but this just sounds like another doctoral thesis dead-end. I can't "see" her postdoctoral research bearing much fruit.
Comment icon #7 Posted by jarjarbinks 7 years ago
The reason is simple, homo sapiens+neanderthal = homo sapiens. In the long run, neanderthal became less and less. Neanderthal women prefers homo sapiens men, because the neanderthal had small d*****.
Comment icon #8 Posted by Junior Chubb 7 years ago
Poor Neanderthals, these guys had no chance. every other month another reason for their demise pops up on UM. From big eyes to, absorbed into human population, outsmarted by dogs, hunted by man, overheating or even freezing to death. Here is a link to the last time eye size was mentioned as a cause if you're interested... http://www.unexplain...s.php?id=244511
Comment icon #9 Posted by Zalmoxis 7 years ago
Nice article. I can't imagine what it would be like to live on mainly visual interpretations like a tribe of mimes in comparison to a human tribe with a more sophisticated communications system, even if their vocabularies were very limited.
Comment icon #10 Posted by Ell 7 years ago
http://www.bbc.com/e...ange-large-eyes It is a ridiculous and totally wrong hypothesis.
Comment icon #11 Posted by DieChecker 7 years ago
Larger eyes might need a larger brain. But, then, I thought Neanderthals did have a larger brain. Seems like a null argument, even if the thing with the bigger eyes is true. There are much better reasoned theories. This one should be marked down and then ignored, for being lame.
Comment icon #12 Posted by ShortyStuff 7 years ago
Whoever came up with that ridiculous theory is what I call an "educated idiot" ... someone with a high education but no common sense. Since they say we use such a small percentage of our brains, what makes them think a little extra use of the visual cortex would doom the species?
Comment icon #13 Posted by Trihalo42 7 years ago
The biggest contradiction I see in this big eyes thing is that Grey Aliens are thought to be some super advanced species or genetic creation and have eyes bigger than Neanderthals.
Comment icon #14 Posted by Imaginarynumber1 7 years ago
It is a ridiculous and totally wrong hypothesis. Thank god you were here to correct us!! I would have gone on believing this forever if you hadn't said something!!!! Whoever came up with that ridiculous theory is what I call an "educated idiot" ... someone with a high education but no common sense. Since they say we use such a small percentage of our brains, what makes them think a little extra use of the visual cortex would doom the species? So... first you call someone and idiot, and then you repeat the false claim that we do not use all of brain?
Comment icon #15 Posted by Imaginarynumber1 7 years ago
The biggest contradiction I see in this big eyes thing is that Grey Aliens are thought to be some super advanced species or genetic creation and have eyes bigger than Neanderthals. The biggest contradiction you see is that a made up character has bigger eyes than something that actually existed?


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