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Headlines Published on 27 May 2004

ANATOMY, RESEARCH
Title Good looking chaps have choosy women to thank

Evolution has its quirks and the latest evidence is that handsome men may owe their good looks to changes in mating preferences in our primate ancestors, say researchers from Germany and the UK.

Closely studying primate facial features reveals the origins of today’s handsome hunks, scientists say © Source: PhotoDisc
Closely studying primate facial features reveals the origins of today’s handsome hunks, scientists say

© Source: PhotoDisc
Broader faces and receding canine teeth are two examples of the changes that may have taken place over many generations among our male ancestors. The changes were most likely driven by the female of the species, who began to favour mates with good looks – or the perception of them – over their chest thumping, fighting rivals.

Closely studying facial features in chimpanzees, gorillas and other primates, a group of researchers in Germany and the UK found sufficient evidence to build a theory that our primitive forebears may have traded in muscle power and aggressive behaviour for a softer looking appearance and demeanour.

Eleanor Weston of the Research Institute Senckenberg, Frankfurt, explains the sexual power shift that probably took place. “Our research suggests that in early humans, a face that was attractive as opposed to aggressive conferred an advantage,” she told New Scientist

Hey good looking
A quick scan of coffee table fashion magazines is enough to establish a pattern of what sort of looks are considered handsome by contemporary women. Men with broad faces and prominent cheekbones were also considered the best choice of mate by women throughout the ages.

Weston and her English colleagues at the University of Cambridge reached their conclusions initially after studying facial features and canine teeth size of chimps and gorillas. In most primates, males have longer canines than females, indicating their dominance and fighting ability. But the difference was much less in chimps, our closest relative.

Sexual selection had already begun to be influenced by ‘attractiveness’ in male chimps, Weston explains, which correlates with the development of broader faces, higher cheekbones and receding canines. A review of data on other primates further supported the team’s findings, which can be found in The Royal Society’s (UK) Biology Letters.







Source:  Press sources


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More information:

  • Handsome men evolved thanks to picky females (New Scientist, 12 May 2004)
  • Wide faces or large canines? The attractive versus the aggressive primate (Biology Letters)



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