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Science & Technology

Why are we the only species with a chin ?

By T.K. Randall
January 31, 2016 · Comment icon 32 comments



Why do we have a chin and what is it used for ? Image Credit: sxc.hu
It might not be immediately evident, but humans are actually the only animals on Earth with a chin.
The humble chin is such an obvious part of our facial anatomy that most of us simply take it for granted and don't think much about it, yet for years scientists have been attempting to answer a single, fundamental question about this peculiar strut of bone - why do we have it ?

No other species has a chin, not even other primates such as gorillas and chimpanzees which instead have a lower jaw that slopes backwards from their front teeth.

Our extinct ancestors, despite being very similar to us, did not have a chin either.

"It's really strange that only humans have chins," said Duke University's James Pampush.

"When we're looking at things that are uniquely human, we can't look to big brains or bipedalism because our extinct relatives had those. But they didn't have chins."
One theory is that the chin evolved to help support the lower jaw while chewing, however studies have suggested that, due to the way the jaw works, the chin wouldn't help at all in that regard.

Other possibilities include the idea that the chin helps reinforce the jaw when we talk or that it is a physical feature designed to help attract a mate, but so far nobody can agree on any one answer.

"The chin is one of these rare phenomena in evolutionary biology that really exposes the deep philosophical differences between researchers in the field," said Pampush.

And no, despite popular belief elephants don't have chins - they have very different lower jaws to ours and their chin-like protrusion actually acts as an anchor for their fleshy lower lip.

"For these reasons, it is generally agreed that whatever the biological situation occurring on the front of the elephant lower jaw, it is fundamentally different from the condition in humans," said Pampush.

"It may provide some insights into the situation in humans, but to call it a 'chin' stretches the definition."

Source: The Atlantic | Comments (32)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #23 Posted by jps 7 years ago
It's so we can keep our chins up when things go bad. Same as shoulders: Evolved so we have something to cry on. Hands: To high five at appropriate times. Eyes: To see the best in each other. Ears: To listen to our wives. Arms: To hold them tight........somebody stop me! Before i win the corny olympics.
Comment icon #24 Posted by Captain Dumbass 7 years ago
Are they really STILL searching for chins on animals? i don't get why that is so important. Why we have chins is for having a place to get knocked out in those ancient tribal fist fight competition about who's to rule the camp for the season. Without a chin the fight would go on until nobody got any teeth left and which would cause them to die of starvation because they couldn't chew their veggies properly. 30 times they say.
Comment icon #25 Posted by Uncle Sam 7 years ago
Elephants actually....have a chin... Just sad though that poachers like to kill elephants for their tusks. Instead of feeling that kingship with elephants, they just let greed take over.
Comment icon #26 Posted by johnnydanger 7 years ago
China have the most chins fact
Comment icon #27 Posted by LucidElement 7 years ago
Just so you know... A while ago a discussion on "necro-topics" was brought up. I participated as well as some others. Anyway the general question was if "re-topicing" a necro-topic was consistent with general forum flow for UM. My un-official opinion was that it is OK if it not terribly recent, because many users, especially newer users are: a) Unaware that the topic was previously posted Some users, even long-time users, rarely use the "Search" feature. c) It is not unusual for the science or opinions of the original topic to have changed since first posted. d) That's it might be nice to get ... [More]
Comment icon #28 Posted by Sir Smoke aLot 7 years ago
So much trouble about the chin, what it is, why it's there... I see all this as a prelude to chin implants as a way to improve your sexuality
Comment icon #29 Posted by Harte 7 years ago
This story is about a new study and the source contains updated information. An elephant's chin is not actually a chin - this is covered in the article. That makes it quite clear, then. Humans are evolving from the andromorphic into a form mimicking the elephantine. Harte
Comment icon #30 Posted by Noteverythingisaconspiracy 7 years ago
But it was said on QI. Don't make me live in a world where I can't believe what Stephen Fry says. Whats also covered in QI is that 60% of the "facts" they tell you will not be facts in "a number of years time". Mr Fry and Mrs Brand even discuss that there is no such thing as a fact editing of this clip is all wrong. I was just making a joke. I love QI and Stephen Fry. Its going to be interesting to see if it can survive Stephens retirement ?
Comment icon #31 Posted by Harte 7 years ago
Just sad though that poachers like to kill elephants for their tusks. Instead of feeling that kingship with elephants, they just let greed take over. Yeah. They should kill them for their chins. What a waste. Harte
Comment icon #32 Posted by barbco196 7 years ago
If it were not for the chin; Where else would we draw eyes in order to do the 'funny face upside-down thing' on our couch?


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