Morphological adaptation to climate in modern and fossil hominids



Hominids—both living and past—exhibit considerable variation in body size and shape. Both theoretical considerations and empirical observations indicate that some of this variation may be attributable to climatic adaptation. Application of the simple thermoregulatory principle of increasing and decreasing body surface area/body mass in hot and cold climates, respectively, may explain the major systematic differences in body form between living and fossil hominids inhabiting tropical and higher latitude regions of the world. Consideration of potential climatic influences on morphology has important ramifications for reconstructing body form and behavior of past hominids, interpreting geographic and temporal variability and migrational events, explaining the origins and perfection of hominid bipedalism, and better understanding changes in brain size and encephalization during hominid evolution. © 1994 Wiley-Liss, Inc.