Has climate change modified human body size? : The standard human body size has changed “significantly” throughout the last million years & is “strongly connected” to climate.

This is claimed by an interdisciplinary group of researchers, guided by the Universities of Cambridge, UK & Tübingen, Germany, that collected measurements of body & brain size for over 300 fossils from the Homo genus – to where modern day humans, Homo sapiens, fit in. These fossils were found all over the globe.

They discovered colder & harsher climates made the evolution of larger body sizes at the same time that warmer climates brought about smaller bodies, as well as brain size also changing “dramatically” although not evolving at the same time with body size.

A researcher who guided the study in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Zoology, Professor Andrea Manica stated: “Our study indicated that climate – particularly temperature – has been the main driver of changes in body size over the past million years.

“We can see from people living today that those in warmer climates tend to be smaller & those living in colder climates tend to be bigger. We now know that the same climatic influences have been at work over the last million years.”

The researchers further inspected the result of environmental factors on brain size however correlations were discovered to be basically weak.

They believe non-environmental elements were more important compared to climate for driving larger brains – these were the additional cognitive challenges of increasingly complex social lives, more varied diets & more complex technology.

First author of the study, Dr Manuel Will from the University of Tubingen said: “We found that different factors determine brain size & body size – they’re not under the same evolutionary pressures. The environment has a much greater influence on our body size compared to our brain size.

“There is an indirect environmental influence on brain size in more stable & open areas: the amount of nutrients gained from the environment had to be enough to allow for the maintenance and growth of our large & particularly energy-demanding brains.”

Has climate change modified human body size?

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