Biology Magazine

Northerners Have Bigger Eyes – and Bigger Brains, Say Researchers

By Periscope @periscopepost
Northerners have bigger eyes – and bigger brains, say researchers

Laplanders: Bigger eyes, bigger brains. Smaller huts, though. Photo credit: Library of Congress

In a report that’s bound to be a boon for the much-maligned people living in the north of Britain and a blow for the similarly maligned people living in the southern part of the US, a team of scientists from Oxford University recently claimed that people at darker, higher latitudes have bigger brains.

The reasoning is this: People living in areas farther away from the equator had to contend with less light. This lead to evolving larger eyeballs – on average, people whose ancestors lived in the Arctic Circle have eyeballs 20 percent larger than people whose ancestors come from near the equator – which in turn lead to evolving bigger brains to deal with the increased visual input. According to The Guardian, the report examined the brain volumes and eye sockets of 55 skulls from around the globe, dating from the 19th century; those with the biggest brain volume were found to be from Scandinavia while those with the smallest were from Micronesia. The adaptation was relatively recent, starting the last 10,000 years, and was driven by the need to cope with lower levels of light at higher latitudes.

Read the study, published in Biology Letters Journal on Wednesday.

But bigger doesn’t necessarily mean necessarily smarter. The Daily Mail, which opened its story on the findings by noting that “For Northerners tiring of those old jokes about them being less than bright, help is at hand,” flagged up the caveat that bigger brains doesn’t correlate to greater intelligence. “Instead, the extra grey matter simply helps them see clearly in the lower light levels that come with living at high latitudes. To put it another way, Northern dimness led to the evolution of bigger brains,” the paper explained.


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