News / Science & Technology

Fistfights Drove Human Face Evolution, Utah Researchers Suggest

FILE - Fist fighters battle during the Musangwe, an age old tradition where men and boys display their fighting skills, at Gaba Village in Limpopo province, South Africa.
FILE - Fist fighters battle during the Musangwe, an age old tradition where men and boys display their fighting skills, at Gaba Village in Limpopo province, South Africa.
— The human face evolved so that it could take a punch, researchers suggest in a new study.
 
It's a much more violent explanation than the leading alternative, that our skulls changed to accommodate a diet of hard-to-chew foods. And the authors said it suggests a pugilistic past where violence was key to our evolution.
 
When people fight, they go for the face, said study co-author Mike Morgan.
University of Utah researchers contend that human faces evolved to minimize injury from punches to the face during fights between males. Top to bottom: chimpanzee, our closest primate relative; hominid ancestors Australopithecus afarensis, Paranthropus boisei, Homo erectus; and modern human. (University of Utah)University of Utah researchers contend that human faces evolved to minimize injury from punches to the face during fights between males. Top to bottom: chimpanzee, our closest primate relative; hominid ancestors Australopithecus afarensis, Paranthropus boisei, Homo erectus; and modern human. (University of Utah)
x
University of Utah researchers contend that human faces evolved to minimize injury from punches to the face during fights between males. Top to bottom: chimpanzee, our closest primate relative; hominid ancestors Australopithecus afarensis, Paranthropus boisei, Homo erectus; and modern human. (University of Utah)
University of Utah researchers contend that human faces evolved to minimize injury from punches to the face during fights between males. Top to bottom: chimpanzee, our closest primate relative; hominid ancestors Australopithecus afarensis, Paranthropus boisei, Homo erectus; and modern human. (University of Utah)

Morgan knows a little something about fights. He is a black belt in two martial arts and is training as an emergency medicine physician at the University of Utah.
 
"It gives me first-hand experience with a lot of the end results of human violence and aggression," he said.
 
Strong jaw
 
In the new study in the journal Biological Reviews, Morgan and his University of Utah co-author, David Carrier, noted that over the past 4 million years, our hominid ancestors evolved thicker and less protruding jaws, stronger jaw muscles and teeth, and a reinforced bone under the eye socket -- all areas that take a beating in a fight.
 
Last year, the authors published a paper detailing how the fist evolved over that time to be a better fighting weapon.
 
Only humans fight with fists. Dogs bite. Cats scratch. Antelopes gore. Our closest primate relatives, the chimpanzees, can't form fists. They slap.
 
Morgan said a punch hurts more than a slap because it delivers force to a smaller area.
 
"If you have a better weapon, you can theoretically win more mates," which means more chances to pass on your genes, which is what evolution is all about, he said.
 
Better defenses
 
And as the weapon got better, Morgan's research proposed, so did the defense.
 
"As we developed this ability to form a fist, we see an equal development in the robusticity and strength of the most commonly struck portions of the face," Morgan said.
 
All this suggests an extremely violent human evolutionary history.
 
"At one point in time, it made sense for us to be aggressive and violent," Morgan said. "It guaranteed the survival of our species."
 
Brains may have won out over brawn in the evolution of the modern human species.

The researchers note that our skulls are weaker in some of the same key areas compared to earlier ancestral species - changes that coincide with a decline in upper-body strength and a less powerful punch.
 
Skeptics
 
However, the fist-evolution study did not convince critics, who noted that fists are good for gripping tools and other uses besides fighting. Morgan expects a vigorous debate over his latest study, too.
 
"This is certainly a creative new idea," said George Washington University anthropologist Brian Richmond, "but there is abundant evidence to support the hypothesis that changes in diet and food processing best explain the decrease in the size of the face during human evolution."
 
Morgan promised the fight over the competing theories will end peacefully.

You May Like

Video On The Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime bombardment, VOA correspondent finds More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Babu G. Ranganathan
June 22, 2014 12:33 PM
NATURAL LIMITS OF EVOLUTION - Just google the title to read this Internet article published in the English edition of Russia's Pravda news.


by: Joe
June 10, 2014 1:41 AM
Another example of how idiotic some scientists can get. This is an embarrassment, not science. Pure baloney. I wonder how much money they got paid for this "research" and most importantly whether we, the taxpayers, were the ones who paid the money. This is ridiculous.


by: Jumbybird
June 09, 2014 4:12 PM
Nonsense, it evolved because we move forward, so the face is more likely to get hit by anything, not only fists, maybe tree branches. Also if our face evolved for fistfights, how come a single punch can still cause concussion, brain injury or death? And a fist is an accidental side effect of opposable thumbs, not a development for fighting.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid