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Body mass and encephalization in Pleistocene Homo


Many dramatic changes in morphology within the genus Homo have occurred over the past 2 million years or more, including large increases in absolute brain size and decreases in postcanine dental size and skeletal robusticity. Body mass, as the 'size' variable against which other morphological features are usually judged, has been important for assessing these changes1–5. Yet past body mass estimates for Pleistocene Homo have varied greatly, sometimes by as much as 50% for the same individuals2,3,6–12. Here we show that two independent methods of body-mass estimation yield concordant results when applied to Pleistocene Homo specimens. On the basis of an analysis of 163 individuals, body mass in Pleistocene Homo averaged significantly (about 10%) larger than a representative sample of living humans. Relative to body mass, brain mass in late archaic H. sapiens (Neanderthals) was slightly smaller than in early 'anatomically modern' humans, but the major increase in encephalization within Homo occurred earlier during the Middle Pleistocene (600–150 thousand years before present (kyr BP)), preceded by a long period of stasis extending through the Early Pleistocene (1,800 kyr BP).

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Ruff, C., Trinkaus, E. & Holliday, T. Body mass and encephalization in Pleistocene Homo. Nature 387, 173–176 (1997).

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