The face is the mirror of the soul or, at least, a reflection of a large part of non-verbal communication. The face of the modern human is different from that of our ancestors and its evolution could be, in part, driven by the need to acquire social skills, as a new study concludes.
Modern humans they have a short, retracted face under a globular brain box which is "distinctly different" from that of our closest living relatives and of extinct hominids such as the Neanderthals.
Diet, respiratory physiology or weather helped to sculpt our face, but social communication has been, in some way, overlooked as an underlying factor in its current form, according to the authors of the study of centers such as the University of New York, the Complutense of Madrid and the Canadian York.
The study published this Monday by Nature Ecology and Evolution has traced changes in evolution over four million years, from the face of early African hominids to the appearance of current human anatomy.
The face is a skeletal complex made up of 14 bones and the experts have traced their evolutionary history in the context of their development, morphology and function, which «suggests that their appearance is the result of a combination of biomechanical, physiological and social influences», indicates the study.
Experts suggest that the face evolved not only due to factors such as diet or climate, but "possibly" to give more opportunities to gestures and non-verbal communication, that they were "vital skills" to establish broad social networks.
The Spanish paleoanthropologist Juan Luis Arsuaga, one of the signatories of the study, explains to Efe that his proposal is that the modern face, unlike that of the Neanderthals and their ancestors, "is at the service of non-verbal communication."
Thus, the face is "an organ of language" and modern humans, he says, are "literally more 'expressive' than any other human species that ever existed."
Among the fossils used are those from the Sima de los Huesos, the richest human fossil site on the planet, located in the archaeological site of Atapuerca.
The face of the Neandertals and that of modern humans, aspects on which the contribution of Arsuaga is centered, "appeared before a Neanderthal or sapiens-type brain did, respectively, as can be seen by studying the part of the skull that it contains it ».
Instead of the pronounced crest of the forehead of other hominids, humans developed a smooth forehead with more visible eyebrows, more hair and a greater range of motion.
This circumstance, together with the slenderness of our faces allows us to "express a wide range of subtle emotions, including recognition and sympathy," Paul O'Higgins, another of the signatories of the article, said in a statement from York University.
The current humans can use our face to express more than 20 categories of emotions through the contraction or relaxation of muscles.
O'Higgins points out that apart from the limits set, for example, by the size of the nasal cavity, it is "possible" that the face continues to evolve as our species survive, migrate and find new environmental, social and cultural conditions .
Arsuaga explains the use of the "modular" approach to the evolution of the human skull as a whole, which they decompose "into different morphological and functional units (or modules) which have been changing quite independently in evolution.
This evolutionary model is called "mosaic evolution" and "surely the perspective of mosaic evolution, he considers, is the most appropriate to study human evolution".
For Arsuaga, "although it can not be proven, Homo sapiens has taken the maximum social complexity and that is reflected in his face. EFE
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