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Science Idle

Study: Male Facial Development Evolved To Take Punches 190

First time accepted submitter Joe_NoOne (48818) writes "A new theory suggests that our male ancestors evolved beefy facial features as a defense against fist fights. The bones most commonly broken in human punch-ups also gained the most strength in early hominin evolution. They are also the bones that show most divergence between males and females. From the article: 'Fossil records show that the australopiths, immediate predecessors of the human genus Homo, had strikingly robust facial structures. For many years, this extra strength was seen as an adaptation to a tough diet including nuts, seeds and grasses. But more recent findings, examining the wear pattern and carbon isotopes in australopith teeth, have cast some doubt on this "feeding hypothesis". "In fact, [the australopith] boisei, the 'nutcracker man', was probably eating fruit," said Prof David Carrier, the new theory's lead author and an evolutionary biologist at the University of Utah. Instead of diet, Prof Carrier and his co-author, physician Dr Michael Morgan, propose that violent competition demanded the development of these facial fortifications: what they call the "protective buttressing hypothesis".'"
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Study: Male Facial Development Evolved To Take Punches

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  • The Nose (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jamesl ( 106902 ) on Monday June 09, 2014 @12:48PM (#47195923)

    That's why we all have such flat noses.

  • topic is sexist (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 09, 2014 @12:50PM (#47195943)

    In the interest of feminism, er, I mean equality, we must acknowledge that girls, women, womyns, er, females! are just as eager to punch the ever living shit out of male faces.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Monday June 09, 2014 @12:52PM (#47195953) Journal
    I realize that you evolve with the genome you have, not the genome you might want or wish to have at a later time; but even with a bit of incremental up-armoring the human face seems like kind of a dreadful mess when it comes to fist-fighting prowess. Lots of relatively poorly anchored teeth, plenty of well-vascularized soft tissue, some of it of considerable sensory importance (like the squishy, squishy, eyeballs, conveniently also located in two of the big holes in the skull, where there is little more than goo and connective tissue between your brain and the wide, horrible, world...

    Is this just because "radically alter facial morphology" isn't one of those things you evolve even remotely quickly, or without changing a hell of a lot of genes, some of which have other functions, or do we suspect that there are competing constraints working against, or at least limiting, the degree that masculinized facial features are allowed to make you look like some sort of bio-tank?
  • by DoofusOfDeath ( 636671 ) on Monday June 09, 2014 @12:52PM (#47195963)

    A new theory suggests that our male ancestors evolved beefy facial features as a defense against fist fights.

    I'm trying to keep an open mind about these theories, but they just keep on striking me as mental masturbation by a sub-field that needs to have B.S. called on the lot of them.

    AFAIK, we can only make wildly speculative guesses as to the lifestyles of these creatures. And that will probably be forever true. So unless we find cave drawings of an extensive face-punching meritocracy within these families, it's probably wild speculation as to whether or not it was a relevant factor in the evolution of these features.

    This isn't science.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Monday June 09, 2014 @01:04PM (#47196079) Journal
    Just ask the Irish Elk about what happens if you spend all your time impressing your lady friends and none of it avoiding horrible death...

    (TL;DR, you can't, because they are all dead.)
  • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Monday June 09, 2014 @01:31PM (#47196301)
    You might be right or wrong, but you have no way of knowing without at least understanding the research and specifically addressing the points they make. You're not going to take the time to read the paper, let alone acquire the necessary background to understand it, and neither am I. Know-nothings tossing out hunches on an Internet forum, now that is mental masturbation.
  • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Monday June 09, 2014 @01:35PM (#47196331) Homepage

    People cite sexual selection for all kinds of things, but it often just raises the question, why would that feature suddenly become selected for by the opposite sex? It seems like an convenient catch-all explanation.

    If you don't understand what I mean, you might be thinking, "females preferred male features that were more masculine," but then I'd want to point out that our definition of 'masculine' is based off of men having those features. Also, in as much as animals evolve to become attractive to mates, it's also true that animals evolve to find features more or less attractive in mates. To cite another example, I've heard people claim that babies must have evolved to have cute features so that we'd take care of them, but it's a more feasible explanation to say that we're evolved to find immature features 'cute' in a way that inclined us to take care of our young.

  • by sneakyimp ( 1161443 ) on Monday June 09, 2014 @03:14PM (#47197123)
    In your analysis, you seem to have overlooked the incredible reproductive advantage of being part of a society that exercise geopolitical might (e.g., US, Europe, Russia) versus being in a nation that does not exercise such might (e.g., Afghanistan, Sudan). I would also disagree with your assessment that women do not sexually favor dominant men. Dominance today doesn't necessarily mean a punch-resistant face, but women most definitely sexually favor men with who are dominant physically, intellectually, and especially financially. Women might coo and empathize with a guy who gets punched, but I don't think they'll feel compelled to have sex with him.

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