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Palaeontology

Why are we the only primates with a chin ?

April 6, 2015 | Comment icon 48 comments



The chin is a feature unique to humans among primates. Image Credit: sxc.hu
New research suggests that the human chin may have resulted from our ability to cook and soften food.
It might seem like a strange thought but the concept of having a chin is actually quite unusual in the animal kingdom and we are the only primate species on the planet to possess one.

Why this should be the case has been the subject of debate for years, but now a new paper from researchers at the University of Florida has suggested that the human chin is likely to have developed as a direct result of the invention of cooking.

Neither apes nor monkeys have a chin which means that it must have evolved as a feature unique to humans some time after our distant ancestors split off from the primate family tree.
Study author James Pampush believes that the chin emerged somewhere around two million years ago and that it coincided with the huge leaps in intelligence that enabled our species to cook food.

As the things we ate became softer and easier to chew our teeth and jaws started to shrink because it was no longer necessary for us to gnaw through raw meat and plants.

"I'm guessing the changes which ultimately lead to the chin are directly related to cooking, and indirectly related to larger brains and bodies," said Pampush.

The idea contradicts previous theories which suggested that the chin had evolved as a way to either attract the opposite sex or to help balance the stress placed on the jaw by the process of chewing.

Source: New Zealand Herald | Comments (48)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #39 Posted by DieChecker 7 years ago
A similarly and I think even more intriguing question to me is why we don't have a penis bone. From the alien intervention? They're completely boneless you know. They function hydrostatically. :w00t: Seriously though, I haven't got a clue. Apes do, as most mammals do, so ..... :huh:
Comment icon #40 Posted by Leonardo 7 years ago
A similarly and I think even more intriguing question to me is why we don't have a penis bone. The penis bone allows for extended mating duration - useful for species where reproduction occurs seasonally and therefore being able to successfully fertilise the egg of the female in a single mating becomes more critical. Human reproduction is not seasonal and so there is less biological imperative to have any single mating be successful, thus the duration of mating can be less (i.e. less sperm is passed into the female.) Because mating also represents a time of vulnerability, this strategy of not ... [More]
Comment icon #41 Posted by Father Merrin 7 years ago
A similarly and I think even more intriguing question to me is why we don't have a penis bone. I've managed this far without one :/ A similarly and I think even more intriguing question to me is why we don't have a penis bone. I've managed this far without one :/
Comment icon #42 Posted by DieChecker 7 years ago
The penis bone allows for extended mating duration - useful for species where reproduction occurs seasonally and therefore being able to successfully fertilise the egg of the female in a single mating becomes more critical. Human reproduction is not seasonal and so there is less biological imperative to have any single mating be successful, thus the duration of mating can be less (i.e. less sperm is passed into the female.) Because mating also represents a time of vulnerability, this strategy of not having a mating season and shortening the duration of the mating process is at least as effecti... [More]
Comment icon #43 Posted by Frank Merton 7 years ago
The penis bone allows for extended mating duration - useful for species where reproduction occurs seasonally and therefore being able to successfully fertilise the egg of the female in a single mating becomes more critical. Human reproduction is not seasonal and so there is less biological imperative to have any single mating be successful, thus the duration of mating can be less (i.e. less sperm is passed into the female.) Because mating also represents a time of vulnerability, this strategy of not having a mating season and shortening the duration of the mating process is at least as effecti... [More]
Comment icon #44 Posted by Leonardo 7 years ago
All due respect but your response strikes me as seeing two things (absence of penis bone and non-seasonal mating) both present in a species and thereby deciding there is a causal connection, and then conjuring one. The connection proposed strikes me as unlikely and at a minimum not particularly convincing. In particular no link between successful mating rates and the presence of this bone has been demonstrated. Lions come to mind. They have such a bone and although their matings are somewhat seasonal, there is no particular problem when a single mating doesn't succeed. Chimps also come to mind... [More]
Comment icon #45 Posted by ealdwita 7 years ago
There's always one, isn't there? A fine example of the 'Hapsburg Jaw'
Comment icon #46 Posted by Taun 7 years ago
There's always one, isn't there? A fine example of the 'Hapsburg Jaw' He looks like Jay Leno's great-great-great-(x5) grand Father...
Comment icon #47 Posted by Father Merrin 7 years ago
There's always one, isn't there? A fine example of the 'Hapsburg Jaw' im guessing his mother and father were abit too closely related!
Comment icon #48 Posted by Starhunter 7 years ago
Human reproduction is not seasonal and so there is less biological imperative to have any single mating be successful, thus the duration of mating can be less (i.e. less sperm is passed into the female.) ... because men's would be broken by cheated wives?


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