Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News, and Reviews
Volume 25, Issue 1, pages 20–35, January/February 2016
The enduring puzzle of the human chin
James D. Pampush and David J. Daegling
Article first published online: 22 JAN 2016
© 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
James D. Pampush is a postdoctoral associate in the Evolutionary Anthropology Department of Duke University. His research interests include primate orofacial anatomy and evolution. His recently completed dissertation reexamined the evolutionary scenarios underpinning emergence of the modern human chin. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
David J. Daegling is professor of Anthropology at the University of Florida. His current research focuses on skeletal biomechanics as part of the multi-institutional Taï Monkey Project (Côte d'Ivoire).
spandrel; adaptation; mastication; sexual selection; speech; hypofunction
Although modern humans are considered to be morphologically distinct from other living primates because of our large brains, dexterous hands, and bipedal gait, all of these features are found among extinct hominins. The chin, however, appears to be a uniquely modern human trait. Probably because of the chin's exclusivity, many evolutionary scenarios have been proposed to explain its origins. To date, researchers have developed adaptive hypotheses relating chins to speech, mastication, and sexual selection; still others see it as a structural artifact tangentially related to complex processes involving evolutionary retraction of the midfacial skeleton. Consensus has remained elusive, partly because hypotheses purporting to explain how this feature developed uniquely in modern humans are all fraught with theoretical and/or empirical shortcomings. Here we review a century's worth of chin hypotheses and discuss future research avenues that may provide greater insight into this human peculiarity.
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