For decades, experts were convinced that humans were so smart, in comparison with other species, solely because of our big brains. However, a new study, which the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences recently published, claims that when it comes to the complex structure of the brain, size is not important at all. This story began back in 2013, when a team of researchers unearthed the remains of a Homo naledi, in a South African cave. This extinct hominin species reportedly lived between 236,000 to 335,000 years ago.
Back then, upon analyzing its brain, experts concluded on its size. It was quite small, maybe the size of an orange. However, recently, after looking once again at the remains, the team realized that even if the brain was quite small, it had similar features with that of modern human brains. This is very impressive, considering that our brains today are three times bigger that those of Homo naledi. According to Lee Berger, the leader of this new study, it has now been proven that size doesn’t matter. Especially when it comes to the complexity of the brain. A small package can hide the same complex features as a much larger one.
Extinct human ancestor had a tinier, but similarly complex brain
It’s worth noting that since its discovery, the Homo naledi has baffled scientists. It displays a mix of ancient, ape-like features, combined with more humanlike traits. Berger admitted that this species is a mosaic unlike anything else experts have seen before. Until now, they have found about 2,000 fossils belonging to this species. Those have offered more clues regarding how these distant relatives looked like.
The Homo naledi and modern humans share a lot of characteristics. Now, it seems that these traits also include the brain. Moreover, their brain was asymmetric, like modern humans’, a sign of a high level of behavioral complexity.
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