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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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  • by rabun_bike ( 905430 ) on Monday June 09, 2014 @12:51PM (#47195945)
    Sexual selection is most likely an additional element in the facial features as it has been theorized to be one of the primary driving features of some of the physical statue difference between males and females of many different species. Hence Darwin's explanation of the ornate peacock. []
  • designed by violence (Score:2, Interesting)

    by hirundo ( 221676 ) on Monday June 09, 2014 @12:59PM (#47196015)

    I heard another theory on the way that violence has influenced our evolution. It was suggested that opposable thumbs were favored because they make some apes like ourselves capable of forcible rape, unlike most animals. The success of forcible rape as a breeding strategy led to the differential survival of more violent, impulsive men and more submissive (more likely to survive rape) women who ovulate monthly. And this male aggression has led to homo sapiens becoming earth's dominant megafauna. So if true, on evolutionary time scales the optimal amount of violence to promote species survival is greater than zero.

    This is depressing in proportion to its plausibility.

  • Hypothesis is nuts (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cellocgw ( 617879 ) <cellocgw@g[ ] ['mai' in gap]> on Monday June 09, 2014 @01:00PM (#47196031) Journal

    (I see what I did there in the title).

    If this made sense at all, after a few rounds of Rochambeau v. 2 [] , we'd all have developed a massive testicular protection layer too.

  • by metlin ( 258108 ) on Monday June 09, 2014 @04:23PM (#47197773) Journal

    The goal of bodybuilding is indeed aesthetics, and they do not hide it. Their goal is not functional -- rather, their goal is the full development of every muscle on the body in a proportional manner.

    And that does not mean it's easy, either. People often assume that that degree of muscular development is just "lifting weights" and that is the farthest from the truth. Bodybuilding entails making sure that you pretty much develop every visible muscle group, without any one group looking out of proportion than the other. For instance, my chest and calves are the hardest to build, and it takes me a lot of effort to ensure that they develop in proportion to the rest of my body, my shortcomings notwithstanding.

    However, bodybuilders are far from the best examples of fitness simply because their whole bulk/cut regimen isn't healthy, not to mention the overabundance of supplements that they consume. But I cannot tell from your post if you're referring to all bodybuilders (including the professional ones) or to the popular perception of the gym rat bodybuilder.

    But there is a part of your argument that I disagree with - while they body builders may not be as strong as they should be, given their muscular density, that is by design. They're still stronger than most people (I mean, if you're squatting over a thousand pounds, imagine crushing something with those legs).

    They may have some shortcomings compared to others of a leaner makeup, and that is a function of what they focus on. As a rock climber, I am more agile but my mirror muscles will never get that big; but despite having great lung capacity, my lung capacity will never equal that of my wife's, who's a long distance swimmer. Similarly, despite being strong and flexible, I cannot dream of ever squatting anything over 350 lbs. Because at some level, you hit a very realistic limit that cannot be overcome without additional muscle mass.

    Bodybuilders are extremely good at what they do - i.e. push their muscle development to the max. You cannot judge a fish by how high it can fly.

  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Monday June 09, 2014 @05:26PM (#47198275) Homepage Journal

    The problem I have with these theories is that they don't explain why the hand is so poorly adapted to *deliver* punches. It wouldn't be complicated, you've got all you need to start with given normal variations in hand anatomy. Favor the guys with extra sturdy 5th metacarpals, and voila! Boxer's fractures are a thing of th evolutionary past.

    It's just hard to buy that punching exerts such a dramatic evolutionary pressure on various anatomical features and leaves the fist something a person has to be *taught* to make properly, and which *still* tends to injure itself while punching without the benefit of gloves or taping.

    It seems more plausible that the response of facial development to the presence of testosterone is a matter of *sexual* selection than survival based selection, that humans evolved to hit with clubs and rocks and that fists are a less critical corner case. People who come up with these theories evidently don't have much experience hitting things with their bare hands, which is not surprising given that they've got these handy opposable thumbs.

Perfection is acheived only on the point of collapse. - C. N. Parkinson