Man Fingers and Neanderthals

November 3, 2010

Brit Trogen

Science in Seconds Brit Trogen


Finger length has always been a point of contention for me. In the womb, finger development is affected by exposure to androgens like testosterone, high levels of which cause an increase in the length of the fourth finger (the ring finger) relative to the second finger (index). In other words, if your ring finger is longer than your index, you're basically a dude. 


My ring finger is longer than my index. Way longer. And researchers from the Universities of Southampton and Calgary have just revealed that the insinuations don't stop there. According to recent studies on the fossil finger ratios of Neanderthals and other hominins like Ardipithecus ramidus and Australopithecus afarensis, Neanderthals had a lower finger ratio (longer fourth digits) than most humans today. What does this mean? They were more competitive, aggressive and promiscuous than people today. And if you've been watching Jersey Shore, you'll know that's pretty damn promiscuous.


The fingers also revealed that while Lucy's genus Australopithecus was likely monogamous, Ardi's was highly promiscuous... and probably way more popular with the Neanderthals. Of course, this is all based on nothing more than finger ratios, and recent belief by some, at the University of Liverpool and Oxford in particular, that they act as a predictor of social behavior across species.


Personally, I'm skeptical. And not just because I happen to have the "promiscuous fingers." But I know what you're thinking. Am I ashamed of my trollopy fingers? Am I going to start wearing gloves now that everyone knows what a long ring finger really means? Yes. But only because it's really cold out lately.


Nelson, E., Rolian, C., Cashmore, L., & Shultz, S. (2010). Digit ratios predict polygyny in early apes, Ardipithecus, Neanderthals and early modern humans but not in Australopithecus Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2010.1740



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