Feeds

Why is the human face hairless?

Express yourself

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

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

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
The next big thing in medical science: POO TRANSPLANTS
Your brother's gonna die, kid, unless we can give him your, well ...
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
Simon's says quantum computing will work
Boffins blast algorithm with half a dozen qubits
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
5 critical considerations for enterprise cloud backup
Key considerations when evaluating cloud backup solutions to ensure adequate protection security and availability of enterprise data.
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?
How to simplify SSL certificate management
Simple steps to take control of SSL certificates across the enterprise, and recommendations centralizing certificate management throughout their lifecycle.