Endocasts: Possibilities and Limitations for the Interpretation of Human Brain Evolution

  title={Endocasts: Possibilities and Limitations for the Interpretation of Human Brain Evolution},
  author={Simon Neubauer},
  journal={Brain, Behavior and Evolution},
  pages={117 - 134}
  • S. Neubauer
  • Published 1 September 2014
  • Biology
  • Brain, Behavior and Evolution
Brains are not preserved in the fossil record but endocranial casts are. These are casts of the internal bony braincase, revealing approximate brain size and shape, and they are also informative about brain surface morphology. Endocasts are the only direct evidence of human brain evolution, but they provide only limited data (‘paleoneurology'). This review discusses some new fossil endocasts and recent methodological advances that have allowed novel analyses of old endocasts, leading to… 

Figures from this paper

Fossil Primate Endocasts: Perspectives from Advanced Imaging Techniques

Compared to their putative insectivore-like ancestors, extant primates show an enlarged brain relative to body weight, a larger neocortex and proportionally decreased olfactory bulbs, providing new possibilities for the study of the primate fossil record, especially for assessing brain evolutionary tracks.

Endocasts and the evo-devo approach to study human brain evolution

How geometric morphometrics of endocranial landmark data can be used in an evo-devo approach to human brain evolution and how developmental simulations help to compare ontogenetic patterns among species are outlined.

Are endocasts good proxies for brain size and shape in archosaurs throughout ontogeny?

Strong size and shape correlations between brains and endocasts, divergent ontogenetic trends in the brain‐to‐endocasts correspondence between alligators and chickens, and a comparable magnitude between brain–endocast shape differences and intraspecific neuroanatomical variation are found.

Are endocasts reliable proxies for brains? A 3D quantitative comparison of the extant human brain and endocast

There is close correspondence in terms of morphology and organization between the brain and the corresponding endocast with the exception of the superior region, which represents an important reference for paleoneurological studies.

Sulcal pattern variation in extant human endocasts

This study uses high‐resolution imaging techniques to document the variation in extant human endocranial sulcal patterns for subsequent use as a platform for comparison with the fossil record.

Evolving Human Brains: Paleoneurology and the Fate of Middle Pleistocene

A proper evaluation of cognitive differences must take into account not only the cerebral components, but also the associated mechanisms underlying technological extension, as in the case of Homo erectus and H. neanderthalensis.

Effects of cranial integration on hominid endocranial shape

Results show that a substantial proportion of endocranial shape variation along and across ontogenetic trajectories is due to cranial integration, and the uniquely globular shape of the human endocast mainly results from the combination of an exceptionally large brain with a comparatively small face.

Digital Reconstruction of Neanderthal and Early Homo sapiens Endocasts

It was demonstrated that ecto- and endocranial shapes are quantitatively different between Neanderthals and early Homo sapiens, possibly indicating that neuroanatomical organization is different between the two species.



The Relevance of Endocasts for Studying Primate Brain Evolution

The most proximal evidence for brain evolution within any taxonomic group of animals is from paleoneurology, the study of brain endocasts. The higher primates, however, i.e., pongids and hominids,

Interpreting sulci on hominin endocasts: old hypotheses and new findings

  • D. Falk
  • Biology, Psychology
    Front. Hum. Neurosci.
  • 2014
The comparative and direct evidence for all three regions suggests that hominin brain reorganization was underway by at least the time of Australopithecus africanus, despite the ape-sized brains of these hominins, and that it entailed expansion of both rostral and caudal association cortices.

Early hominid brain evolution: a new look at old endocasts.

The brain morphology of Australopithecus africanus appears more human like than that of Paranthropus in terms of overall frontal and temporal lobe shape, and new data do not support the proposal that increased encephalization is a shared feature between Par anthropus and early Homo.

Hominin brain evolution--new century, new directions.

  • D. Falk
  • Biology
    Collegium antropologicum
  • 2004
A novel method that combines high-resolution MRI of physical endocasting, electronic reconstruction of their missing parts, and warping of the resulting virtual endocasts is currently being developed and has great potential for future studies of hominin brain evolution.

Hominin paleoneurology: where are we now?

  • D. Falk
  • Psychology, Biology
    Progress in brain research
  • 2012

The Evolution of Human Brain Development

It is argued here that an understanding of the tempo and mode of brain development can help to interpret the evolution of the authors' brain and the associated cognitive and behavioral changes.

Increased morphological asymmetry, evolvability and plasticity in human brain evolution

This study uses geometric morphometric techniques to evaluate inter- and intraspecific differences in cerebral morphology in a sample of in vivo magnetic resonance imaging scans of chimpanzees and humans, with special emphasis on the study of asymmetric variation.

Hominid brain evolution: The approach from paleoneurology

Two theoretical approaches for interpreting hominid paleoneurological data are discussed: identifying cerebral “rubicons” that theoretically distinguish hominids from other primates and analyzing brain evolution in terms of “residual” encephalization factors that remain after body size factors have been accounted for.

Brain development after birth differs between Neanderthals and modern humans

Geometric morphometrics and paleoneurology: brain shape evolution in the genus Homo.

  • E. Bruner
  • Biology
    Journal of human evolution
  • 2004