Evolution of the eyebrow and why it’s so important for communication

| | April 17, 2018

Modern humans might never have raised a quizzical eyebrow had Homo sapiens not lost the thick, bony brows of its ancient ancestors in favour of smoother facial features, a new study suggests.

Researchers at the University of York believe early humans bore prominent brow ridges as a mark of physical dominance, and as the human face evolved to become smaller and flatter, it became a canvas on which the eyebrows could portray a much richer range of emotions.

“We moved from a position where we wanted to compete, where looking more intimidating was an advantage, to one where it was better to get on with people, to recognise each other from afar with an eyebrow flash, and to sympathise and so on,” said Penny Spikins, a palaeolithic archaeologist at York and co-author on the study, published in Nature Ecology & Evolution.

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Over the years, researchers have put forward a range of hypotheses. One idea states that the ridge simply filled the gap that would otherwise exist between the protruding face and the braincase. Another argues that a prominent brow served as structural reinforcement, ensuring the face could take the stress of powerful chewing.

Given the importance of eyebrows in human communication, it is not clear why other primates do not use them more, said Robin Dunbar, professor of evolutionary psychology at Oxford University.

Read full, original post: Raising eyebrows: how evolution gave us expressive faces

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