Human facial structure evolved to tolerate punches to the head, according to new research that suggests our ancestors spent a lot of time fighting.
The study, published in the latest issue of the journal Biological Reviews, presents an alternative to the long-held theory that human faces look the way they do primarily because of a past evolved need among our ancestors to chew hard foods, like nuts.
Which Animals Are Fighters, Which Lovers?
Such ancestors likely included the australopiths, which lived 4 to 2 million years ago in Africa.
"The australopiths were characterized by a suite of traits that may have improved fighting ability, including hand proportions that allow formation of a fist; effectively turning the delicate musculoskeletal system of the hand into a club effective for striking," David Carrier, lead author of the study, said in a press release.
"If indeed the evolution of our hand proportions were associated with selection for fighting behavior you might expect the primary target, the face, to have undergone evolution to better protect it from injury when punched," added Carrier, who is a University of Utah biologist.