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A new paper reveals the amazing development of the human face

The human face is unique but universal, mechanical but expressive, modern but old. For over 4 million years, our functions have slowly transformed into what we see today in the mirror, a short stop on the way to who knows what. From Early Hominins to Modern Homo sapiens tracks a new review written by leading experts on the history of the human face over millions of years, as landscapes, climates and cultures come and go. Like many before them, the international team agrees that diet and climate were important factors in shaping the human face. Yet there is another element that they find too often overlooked: social necessity. "We know that other factors such as diet, respiratory physiology and climate have contributed to the shape of the modern human face," says anatomist Paul O & # 39; Higgins from the University of York, "but to interpret their development only with respect to these factors would be a simplification." With the help of facial skin, legs and muscles, modern people can signal more than 20 different categories of emotions to another. And that's not something we could always do. When man's face developed for millennia, it went from a hard mask to an easily manipulated robbery: "a short-faced crane with a large global brain fall", which the authors put it. [embedded content] With the dawn of a smooth forehead, our eyebrows were officially released with plenty of room for movement; At the same time, our faces became smaller and slimmer, allowing…

The human face is unique but universal, mechanical but expressive, modern but old. For over 4 million years, our functions have slowly transformed into what we see today in the mirror, a short stop on the way to who knows what.

From Early Hominins to Modern Homo sapiens tracks a new review written by leading experts on the history of the human face over millions of years, as landscapes, climates and cultures come and go.

Like many before them, the international team agrees that diet and climate were important factors in shaping the human face. Yet there is another element that they find too often overlooked: social necessity.

“We know that other factors such as diet, respiratory physiology and climate have contributed to the shape of the modern human face,” says anatomist Paul O & # 39; Higgins from the University of York, “but to interpret their development only with respect to these factors would be a simplification.”

With the help of facial skin, legs and muscles, modern people can signal more than 20 different categories of emotions to another. And that’s not something we could always do.

When man’s face developed for millennia, it went from a hard mask to an easily manipulated robbery: “a short-faced crane with a large global brain fall”, which the authors put it.

With the dawn of a smooth forehead, our eyebrows were officially released with plenty of room for movement; At the same time, our faces became smaller and slimmer, allowing for subtle feelings as recognition and sympathy.

Suddenly there was more opportunity than ever for gesture and non-verbal communication – an important step if people were to establish and maintain large social networks.

“We believe that improved social communication was a likely result of the face becoming smaller, less robust and with a less pronounced forehead,” said one author, Rodrigo Lacruz, a craniofacial biologist at New York University. [19659003] “This would have enabled more subtle gestures and thereby improved non-verbal communication.”

It is doubtful that social communication could have completely reformed the modern human face, but the authors believe that at least it should be included in leading theories.

For example, Diet is one of the most cited factors to explain our face shape. Unlike modern people, early hominins eat tough vegetable foods, tearing them with their teeth alone. As such, they needed large jaw muscles, and these massive attachments required wide and deep faces.

However, over the last 2 million years, people have begun to use tools to break down and cut our food. And as we have learned to process and cook, our faces have started to shrink.

(Lacruz et al., Nature, 2019)

“Soft modern diets and industrialized communities may mean that the human face continues to diminish in size, “says Higgins.

“There are limits to how much human face can change, for example, breathing requires a sufficiently large nasal cavity.”

It is a trend that has been going on for 100,000 years, and with climate change becoming an ever-growing problem, It can also be affected.

As temperatures increase, writers say it can change our appearance. If climate predictions are correct, they claim that we can expect changes in our nasal cavities, which helps to heat and humidify before it enters our lungs.

“We are a product of our past,” says human evolution expert William Kimbel of Arizona State University.

“Understanding the process through which we became human entitles us to look at our own anatomy with wonder and ask what different parts of our anatomy tell of the historical path to modernity.”

This study has been published in Nature Ecology and Evolution .

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