Futurity

Why do our faces look the way they do?

An expert explains how climate, food, and other factors influenced the evolution of our faces.
funny face (face evolution concept)

New research covers roughly 4 million years of history and integrates many different lines of study to get at the factors that contribute to facial shape.

The researchers conclude that the face’s appearance is a combination of biomechanical, physiological, and social influences.

The face: it’s personal, yet universal. It’s how we recognize each other and communicate our emotions—and yet there’s more to it than immediately meets the eye. Beneath the skin and muscles that form our smirks and scowls are 14 different bones that house parts of the digestive, respiratory, visual, and olfactory systems—enabling us to sniffle, chew, blink, and much more.

Thanks to the discovery of fossils, researchers are able to observe how faces have evolved over time, from extinct hominin species walking the Earth millions of years ago, to Neanderthals, to the only remaining hominin species—Homo sapiens, or humans. Analyzing the visages of our ancestors provides clues about why our faces have grown shorter and flatter over millennia. Which environmental and cultural factors influenced the structure of our modern faces, and how might climate change reshape them yet again?

Two years ago, Rodrigo Lacruz, associate professor of basic science and craniofacial biology at New York University’s College of Dentistry, gathered a group of leading human evolution experts at a conference in Madrid, Spain, to discuss the evolutionary roots of the modern human face. Their detailed account of its history appears in Nature Ecology & Evolution.

Here, Lacruz describes how we came to look the way we do.

The post Why do our faces look the way they do? appeared first on Futurity.

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