Feeds

Why is the human face hairless?

Express yourself

Intelligent flash storage arrays

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

Remote control for virtualized desktops

More from The Register

next story
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Rosetta science team thinks Philae might come to life in the spring
And disclose the biggest surprise of Comet 67P
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
prev story

Whitepapers

Free virtual appliance for wire data analytics
The ExtraHop Discovery Edition is a free virtual appliance will help you to discover the performance of your applications across the network, web, VDI, database, and storage tiers.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
How to determine if cloud backup is right for your servers
Two key factors, technical feasibility and TCO economics, that backup and IT operations managers should consider when assessing cloud backup.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Business security measures using SSL
Examines the major types of threats to information security that businesses face today and the techniques for mitigating those threats.