Funny faces.

As noted in an earlier post, it is quite useful to have blogs, science news, and journal index searches all delivered to a single reader. Today I noticed an interesting juxtaposition of two news stories while skimming through my aggregated list of feeds. These two headlines were given in immediate succession (and from the same source):

Handsome By Chance: Why Humans Look Different From Neanderthals
Chance, not natural selection, best explains why the modern human skull looks so different from that of its Neanderthal relative.

Facial Attraction: Choice Of Sexual Partner Shaped The Human Face
Facial attractiveness played a major role in shaping human evolution, as studies on our fossil ancestors have shown our choice of sexual partner has shaped the human face.

These two studies aren’t mutually exclusive, of course. Neanderthals may have evolved their features by chance whereas human features evolved in response to sexual selection, but it’s amusing that such diametrically opposed explanations for facial features within the genus Homo — random genetic drift versus non-random mate choice — are given right next to each other in the news feed.


The news stories are based on these articles:

Weaver, T.D., C.C. Roseman, and C.B. Stringer. 2007. Were Neandertal and modern human cranial differences produced by natural selection or genetic drift? Journal of Human Evolution 53: 135-145.

Weston, E.M., A.E. Friday, and P. Liò. 2007. Biometric evidence that sexual selection has shaped the hominin face. PLoS One 2(8): e710.