Feeds

Why is the human face hairless?

Express yourself

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

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

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
Mine Bitcoins with PENCIL and PAPER
Forget Sudoku, crunch SHA-256 algos
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
'This BITE MARK is a SMOKING GUN': Boffins probe ancient assault
Tooth embedded in thigh bone may tell who pulled the trigger
DOLPHINS SMELL MAGNETS – did we hear that right, boffins?
Xavier's School for Gifted Magnetotaceans
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
Canberra drone team dances a samba in Outback Challenge
CSIRO's 'missing bushwalker' found and watered
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.