Big apes share more than 90% of our genome and still we are undoubtedly very different. So what is it that gives us our unique “humanness” and higher intelligence ? In an article about to be published in the ’journal Medical Hypotheses’ a group of Portuguese researchers propose that the differences which separate apes and humans, such as brain size and intellect, can be explained by differences in thyroid and steroids hormones.
It is now well accepted that intelligence is dependent on brain size, and in fact the brain of an ape is approximately a third of the size a human’s brain. This means “factors” known to affect brain size might be involved in the different intelligence observed, not only between human and non-human primates, but also throughout human evolution. And that is the premise for the work of H.R. Correia, S.C. Balseiro and M.L. de Areia, a group pf Portuguese academics from the Department of Anthropology, University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal.
The team of researchers propose that the differences observed between apes and humans, and also between different hominids, result from distinct metabolisms in thyroid and sex steroids hormones, such as testosterone (the hormone responsible for male secondary sex characteristics) and estrogens (responsible for female secondary sex characteristics).
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