In a world where hair removal and hair styling are such big industries, we tend to forget just how little hair we have compared to chimps and other primates. There are many advantages to a fur covered body – just ask your pets! So how did we humans lose our fur?
Actually, humans are not as naked as we think. We have as many hair follicles as chimpanzees, but our follicles do not grow thick fur. They mostly grow vellus or peach-fuzz hair. However, all the follicles on our bodies are capable of growing hair as thick and dark as our luscious manes under the right hormonal conditions. It’s when something causes these conditions to occur that we appear to start growing hair in the wrong places.
There have been a dozen or more theories as to why humans lost their fur, but scientists are now beginning to unpick the mystery at a genetic level as seen in a recent study published in Cell Reports. Scientists have been at a loss to explain why we are not simply covered in fur and why humans have very specific male and female hair patterns. Here are just four of the most popular current theories as to why humans lost their fur:
Losing fur to become aquatic apes
Our ancestors had to adopt a semi-aquatic lifestyle to forage for food in lakes and rivers during the dry season. Wading in water with a fur-covered body may have restricted the ability to hunt, so a hair-free body may have had an evolutionary advantage.
Less bite to bug you by losing fur
Loss of fur reduced the rate of infection by lice and parasites leaving a smooth body as a display of good health. Sexual selection for a smooth, hairless hide in a mate would soon promote this feature.
Skin deep communication
The secret of our hairless bodies may be in our eyes. We pick up non-verbal communication about mood, health and emotion from subtle skin colour changes. This theory is less far-fetched than you might think. Unlike other primates (except the ones that have bare faces and bare bottoms like us) our eyes have an extra set of cones to let us detect subtle colour changes just in skin. Read more about this theory in Biology Letters.
Too Hot for Overcoats
In this theory we lost our fur to allow us to move out of the shady forests and into the grasslands. An absence of fur allowed us to run further without overheating in the heat of the day and allowed an increased number of sweat glands to produce sweat that is rapidly evaporated off our bodies to keep us cool. A boring theory, but one that’s hard to contradict.
It’s unlikely that genetic research will help us directly figure out whether humans are swimming apes, sweaty monkeys or blushing primates. Yet combining the study’s molecular evidence of how hair grows with physical traits found in humans will get us closer to the truth.
Finally, if you do grow hair in the wrong places, galvanic electrolysis is the only permanent way to get rid of it. Book a consultation at PEACH CLINICS on (02) 8877-0000 or from the Book Online button on our website. Consultations are free, confidential and discreet.