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Shifting Skull Sizes

April 27, 2011

Over the past few centuries, women’s skulls have grown closer to the size of men’s, at least in one part of the world.



A diminishing sex difference…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Men generally have bigger heads than women. But that difference is shrinking – at least in Spain and Portugal, and possibly elsewhere. North Carolina State University forensic anthropologist Ann Ross and her colleagues studied skulls from that region. They found that between the 16th and the 19th centuries, both sexes’ heads grew, but the females gained more ground. That could be because of social changes that made the sexes more equal.

ANN ROSS (North Carolina State University):

… Better nutrition, better health: those kinds of things will affect the skeleton in positive ways, allowing the skeleton to meet their genetic potential to become bigger.


The work shows why scientists need to carefully consider when and where a person lived, when deciphering a skeleton’s story. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.