Small Brain IssueOctober 2, 2011
It seems there are ways for the brain to retain intellectual capacity even when it shrinks dramatically. The study of Homo Floresiensis shows that despite being only 100 cm tall, and with the brain size of a Chimpansee, he possessed technology we’d normally only expect of human species with larger brains. The average brain size of contemporary man is 1250 cubic cm, that of Homo Floresiensis only 400 cubic cm. Despite this ‘handicap’ Homo Floresiensis made big-game stone weapons to hunt Komodo Dragons, dwarf elephants and giant rats and knew how to make fire. Their brains had an enlarged, convoluted frontal cortex indicative of sophisticated cognitive function.
On the other hand, says Thomas Samaras in his groundbreaking book Human Body Size and the Laws of Scaling, “If Homo Floresienis indeed used relatively sophisticated culture, could they invent it or did they merely retain the use of existing culture as their brain and body shrank? Certainly, our ability to access existing culture does not necessarily reflect high individual intelligence”.
Definitely the small brain issue will be central to this investigation for some time to come.