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I've been wondering about head hair, facial hair in particular. Human males can grow very extensive beards should they choose to not shave - however you do not really see this in our chimpanzee cousins! Yes, they have little pseudo-beards, but the difference being that they do not shave, that is just the length they reach. Whereas in humans we can grow to our hearts content (*this may not be the case, see this question).

I can't really see why this would have been selected, unless it's simply that (evolutionarily speaking) women like men with long beards?

So my question is: why can humans perpetually grow head hair, yet we have lost the majority of our body hair, in comparison to chimpanzees and other ape family members?

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This is closely related to this question - perhaps not an exact duplicate though? – Rory M May 17 '12 at 10:40
@RoryM thanks for pointing out that question - it certainly goes some way to helping answer this one. I have differentiated my question a bit further so that it's definitely not a duplicate. – Luke May 17 '12 at 12:22

2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Wheeler (1992; and previous) discusses the evolutionary loss of "non-functional" hair in hominids from the perspective of water balance.

Wheeler's hypothesis is that naked, bipedal hominids could have tolerated higher ambient temperatures as well as elevated metabolic heat production. Naked skin would confer higher levels of evaporative cooling, but would have entailed more water loss.

Wheeler argues that bipedalism necessarily would have preceded loss of hair, which seems to agree with Carrier's (1984) hypothesis that early hominids were distinguished not by large brains but by upright, bipedal postures with striding gaits. Humans are unique among similarly sized mammals in their capacity for endurance running.

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Interesting! May we have kept hair on our heads to keep the sun from directly heating our brains? Bit off topic, but do you suppose the increased endurance running is simply that running on 2 legs is more efficient than using all 4? – Luke Jun 25 '12 at 14:11

Evolution means becoming better every time.We humans have less hair on our body as compared to our chimpanzee cousins so as to facilitate sweating and better and efficient cooling of our bodies.I was taught that our hairless bodies initially came about from an adaptation that occurred as apes moved down from the jungles and into the hot savanna. Our hairless bodies helped control our body temperature when hominids made the transition to a new ecosystem but we could not have afforded to lose all the hairs as it would have made our body more vulnerable to skin diseases and UV radiation .So we lost our hairs but not all of it and retained hairs where it was extremely necessary to have them so has to protect ourselves.Moreover our head remains directly under the sun for most of the time hence the hairs on our heads are the most concentrated.

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Can you please add some references that support your claim? – Chris Oct 6 at 16:26

protected by Chris Oct 6 at 16:25

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