Human history in your face

earthsky.org | 4/23/2019 | EarthSky
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Image via NYU News.

How and why did the human face evolve to look as it does today? Why do our faces and expressions look different – and yet eerily similar – to those of, for example, chimps? Two years ago, a group of leading human evolution experts gathered at a conference in Madrid, Spain, to discuss the evolutionary roots of the modern human face. Their detailed account of its 4 million year history was published April 15, 2019, in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Ecology and Evolution. Rodrigo Lacruz, associate professor of basic science and craniofacial biology at New York University’s College of Dentistry, spearheaded the meeting of experts two years ago and is lead author on the new paper. His interview with NYU News follows.

Skin - Muscles - Smirks - Scowls - Bones

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?

NYU News: How does the human face differ from that of our predecessors – and our closest living relatives?

Lacruz - Terms - Forehead - Forward - Projection

Lacruz: In broad terms, our faces are positioned below the forehead, and lack the forward projection that many of our fossil relatives had. We also have less prominent brow ridges, and our facial skeletons have more topography. Compared to our closest living...
(Excerpt) Read more at: earthsky.org
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