Monday, 24 December 2012

Was fat a survivalist issue for Neanderthals?

Compared with modern western Homo sapiens, Neanderthals were muscular, barrel-shaped, and had short arms and legs. This body-shape makes sense from an evolutionary point of view, because the nearer ball-shaped a thing is, the better it is at keeping warm.

 (This means that, for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, becoming spherical at Christmas is no more than sensible. So we can eat, drink and be merry with a clear conscience, hurray!)

 The advantage Neanderthals got from their stocky and short-limbed body shape was real, but fairly small. They’d have lived longer than us if they’d fallen into a cold river, but they’d certainly have perished if stuck out all night in winter without shelter.

 I wonder how many clothes we’d have to put on ourselves to be as hardy as a naked Neanderthal?

 My guess would be something like a padded lumberjack shirt and a pair of jeans – but as far as I know no one’s yet done the research.

 Now there's a nice project if someone in academia fancies it.


  1. I feel as if I have a link to the Neanderthals here...I am short and have short legs which have always been my least favourite bit of my body. If it helps me survive for longer, though, I won't complain. And I have become a bit more spherical over Christmas but that will soon change, I hope!

  2. That's interesting. I wonder if short people have fewer heart-attacks?

    Giraffes have very high blood-pressure, I know!