Evolution of Beards

A beard is a hair that grows on the upper lip, chin, neck, and cheeks of humans and some non-human animals. In humans, usually, only adult or pubescent males can grow beards. Some women with hirsutism, a medical/hormonal condition of unnecessary hairiness, may grow a beard.

Usually, the beard originates during puberty. Beard growth is linked to the stimulation of hair follicles in the area by dihydrotestosterone, which affects beard growth after puberty. Dihydrotestosterone also increases balding. Dihydrotestosterone is generated from testosterone, the levels of which alter with the season. The Beard growth rate is also genetic. 

However, today we will see two theories revolving around why exactly beards evolved in men and how it’s related to reproduction and self-defense. 

Evolution of Beard

Sexual Characteristics

Biologists identify beards as a secondary sexual characteristic because they are incomparable to one sex yet do not directly play a role in reproduction. Charles Darwin first proposed a potential evolutionary explanation of beards in his work, The Descent of Man, which mentioned that the process of sexual selection might have led to beards. 

Sexual selection is a natural selection model in which PEOPLE of one biological sex pick mates of the other sex to mate with and compete with members of the same sex to access members of the opposite sex (intrasexual preference). These two forms of choice mean that some individuals have greater reproductive success than others within a population. For example, around the breeding season, sexual selection in most frogs occurs with the men first meeting at the water’s edge and making their reproduction calls: croaking. The females then come and choose the males with the most profound croaks and best regions. In general, males profit from repeated mating and monopolizing access to a group of fertile females. Females can have a restricted number of offspring and maximize the return on the energy they spend in reproduction.

According to Darwin, the beard is similar to the depth of a frog’s voice in humans. It exists to attract females. Modern biologists have confirmed the role of sexual selection in the evolution of beards, presuming that most women find men with beards more attractive than men without beards.

Evolutionary psychology explanations for beards include indicating sexual maturity and flagging dominance by enhancing the perceived size of jaws, and clean-shaved faces are rated less powerful than bearded. Some scientists assert that it is not yet confirmed whether the sexual selection leading to beards is rooted in dominance (intra-sexual selection) or attractiveness (inter-sexual selection). A beard can be explained as a sign of a male’s overall condition. The rate of facial shagginess appears to affect male attractiveness. A beard’s appearance makes the male vulnerable in hand-to-hand fights (it provides an easy way to grab and hold the opponent’s head), which is harmful, so biologists have speculated that there must be other evolutionary benefits that exceed that drawback. Excess testosterone evidenced by the beard may indicate mild immunosuppression, which may support spermatogenesis.

Absorbing a Punch

A newer theory however, credits’ jaw protection from a sucker punch’ for the evolution of the beard. 

According to the latest discoveries, facial hair may offer guys more than just a sex appeal, which implies beards evolved to diminish the impact of a punch and defend the jaw from harm. Charles Darwin had proved that a lion’s mane offers more protection to him, which might be similar in the case of men. The mandible below your cheeks is the most commonly fractured facial bone during any man-man violence. Beard possibly evolved to provide physical protection from strikes.

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