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New study suggests male faces have evolved to take a punch

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Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Monday, June 9, 2014, 3:14 PM - A new paper by researchers from the University of Utah argues that human male faces have evolved to have "beefier" features to minimize injuries sustained from punches to the face.

This can especially be seen in skull analysis of our australopith ancestors. The theory has sparked a buzz in the academic world, largely because it strays away from the long-held belief that the human face evolved out of a need to chew on hard foods like nuts.

A more "robust" face isn't the only combative trait we've developed. Lead author Dave Carrier points out that australopiths  developed "hand proportions that allow formation of a fist; effectively turning the delicate musculoskeletal system of the hand into a club effective for striking".


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Co-author Michael H. Morgan adds that new study helps to open up a conversation about the role violence has played in human evolution.


CAPTION/ PHOTO VIA UNIVERSITY OF UTAH: Photographs of skull reconstructions comparing chimpanzees with four hominins: (A) Pan troglodytes; (B)Austrophithecus afarensis; (C) Paranthropus boisei; (D) Homo erectus; (E) Homo sapiens. Photo Credit: Reconstructions were supplied by Skulls Unlimited.


"When modern humans fight hand-to-hand the face is usually the primary target,"  Carrier said in a statement.

"What we found was that the bones that suffer the highest rates of fracture in fights are the same parts of the skull that exhibited the greatest increase in robusticity during the evolution of basal hominins. These bones are also the parts of the skull that show the greatest difference between males and females in both australopiths and humans. In other words, male and female faces are different because the parts of the skull that break in fights are bigger in males."

The complete paper can be found in the journal Biological Reviews.​

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