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

As US Strikes Syria, China Sees Parallels at Home

Beijing is debating how much support to give international coalition against IS militants and trying to figure out how many Chinese nationals may have joined group overseas More

CDC: Ebola Could Infect 1.4 M by 2015

US health officials say if efforts to curb the outbreak are not increased, cases will soar dramatically by early next year More

Video USAID Provides $231 Million for Girls Education in 5 Countries

US Agency for International Development partners with celebrities to call attention to importance of education for girls worldwide 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.
Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'i
X
Scott Stearns
September 23, 2014 10:52 PM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video US, Gulf Allies Strike Islamic State Militants in Syria

United States forces have carried out strikes against Islamic State or ISIL militant positions in Syria - the first time Western forces have taken action on Syrian soil. Five U.S. allies from the Gulf joined the military action. Local reports suggest dozens of militants were killed. The U.S. also carried out unilateral missile strikes against a Syria-based terror group which Washington says poses an imminent threat to the West. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video High Intensity Focused Ultrasound Used to Kill Cancer Tumor

There is a new way of killing certain cancer tumors that allows the patient to go home on the same day. Surgeons at the Keck Medical Center of the University of Southern California became the first doctors to use this procedure on a patient with the help of high intensity focused ultrasound, or HIFU, and new robotic technology. Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video USAID Provides $231 Million for Girls Education in Five Countries

Hollywood stars Alicia Keys, Jennifer Garner and 30 others have voiced their support for a U.S.-backed initiative called "Let Girls Learn." The $231 million program, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, is aimed at ensuring public and quality education for girls worldwide. As VOA's Mariama Diallo reports, this new program will focus on five countries in Africa, South Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.
Video

Video UN: Relocation of Bedouins in Israel Weakens Two-state Solution

Rural Bedouins living in disputed lands east of Jerusalem could soon find themselves forcibly relocated. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Jerusalem that while Israel defends the move as in the Bedouins’ best interests, the United Nations says the plan threatens the survival of the two-state solution with Palestinians.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Prolonged Drought Plagues SW Oklahoma Farmers

Parts of western Texas and southwestern Oklahoma have been in drought conditions for several years running and the deficit in rainfall has taken a heavy toll on cotton and grain production. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin says the state has suffered $2 billion in agricultural losses since 2011. There has been rain in recent weeks, but, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Altus, Oklahoma, for most farmers it has been too late.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid