Feeds

Why is the human face hairless?

Express yourself

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Also in this week's column:

Why is the human face hairless?

Asked by Tom Sherwood of Worthington, Minnesota

Most other mammals have hairy faces. So why are we humans an exception? In fact, most other higher order primates have facial hair patterns at least a little similar to our own. For instance, take chimpanzees.

Comparing the face of a chimpanzee to that of a recent U.S. President... Be that as it may. In both non-human higher order primates and humans, hair gathers around the face in a rather similar manner. It comes in varying degrees down the brow, around the ears, down alongside the cheeks, and forms a beard - at least in half of us.

The evolutionary adaptive virtue of a hairless face appears to be that it enables the clearer and easier sending and receiving of social messages through facial expressions. This was and is important for survival. As humans evolved into the complex creatures we are, and with a complex social organization to match complete with dominance hierarchies, etc., “reading” faces well makes a lot of sense.

We need to be able to discern more about the intentions of our fellow humans. We gain valuable clues as to the likely behaviors of others by watching their faces. We discover which individuals to trust, to fear, to comfort, to scold, and so on. We would be at a distinct disadvantage without the ability to “read” a face. Hairlessness makes it all so much better and easier to do so.

Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to s.juan@edfac.usyd.edu.au

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

More from The Register

next story
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.