You can thank evolution for the size and shape of your face (maybe)

FYI: genes that have been linked to facial structure vary more than DNA in other parts of the body. (I had no idea.) This makes logical sense from an evolutionary standpoint. For example, let’s say everyone looked pretty much the same in terms of facial features/construct, right? Or, at the very least, let’s say everyone in a certain area looked the same. If you were angry with someone and wanted to lash out, how would you know who to direct it at? If you were happy and wanted to reward someone, same problem. Thus, you could argue that we evolved to have different faces because it was a social necessity.

That thinking is laid out in an article on National Geographic, including this section:

That high level of genetic variability probably means that evolutionary forces are at play in shaping the diversity of faces, the authors say. Consider a hypothetical gene that codes for either a long nose or a short nose, depending on its DNA variations. If a long nose was harmful, long-nose variants would be weeded out over time. But if the usefulness of a long nose depends on the environmental context, then both short and long variants will stick around in the genome, leading to a more diverse set of genes.

That makes sense. But then think of animals that do tend to look the same — cows or sheep, for example. We don’t obviously know exactly what they’re thinking, but there are elements of research indicating that they can identify each other, or at least make broad sense of some type of hierarchy. That might be a flaw in this type of research, as the article also notes:

Many other species, such as sheep, can use faces to recognize individuals even when those faces are not highly variable, saysSusanne Shultz, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Manchester in the U.K.

“It is likely that numerous processes act in concert during the course of evolution,” adds Barnaby Dixson of the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.

I was never very good at science or anything in school. I don’t even 100 percent understand evolution, if we’re being completely honest. But one of the more interesting things I’ve read in the past month or so is this idea that we needed social interaction to survive in the very earliest form of humanity. It’s kind of interesting to think about all that stuff contextually: what was happening between the earliest humans and the animals on the planet basically shaped a good deal of how we are today, from our facial features to our general social codes. Obviously things have changed — and maybe evolution isn’t even over yet — but it’s interesting to even think that interactions taking place thousands of years ago are the determinant for why your face looks different than your neighbor’s face.

Not to get too deep here or anything, but we really are all just grains of sand in the world.


Ted Bauer