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The evolutionary history of the human face

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  • Rodrigo S Lacruz
  • Chris B Stringer
  • William H Kimbel
  • Bernard Wood
  • Katerina Harvati
  • Paul O'Higgins
  • Timothy G Bromage
  • Juan-Luis Arsuaga


Publication details

JournalNature Ecology and Evolution
DateAccepted/In press - 7 Mar 2019
DateE-pub ahead of print (current) - 15 Apr 2019
Pages (from-to)726-736
Early online date15/04/19
Original languageEnglish


The face is the most distinctive feature used to identify others. Modern humans have a short, retracted face beneath a large globular braincase that is distinctively different from that of our closest living relatives. The face is a skeletal complex formed by 14 individual bones that houses parts of the digestive, respiratory, visual and olfactory systems. A key to understanding the origin and evolution of the human face is analysis of the faces of extinct taxa in the hominin clade over the last 6 million years. Yet, as new fossils are recovered and the number of hominin species grows, the question of how and when the modern human face originated remains unclear. By examining key features of the facial skeleton, here we evaluate the evolutionary history of the modern human face in the context of its development, morphology and function, and suggest that its appearance is the result of a combination of biomechanical, physiological and social influences.

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© Springer Nature Limited 2019. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details.

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