When hair loss was advantageousWe’re constantly being told that more hair you have, the better you are – but who’s at the top of the food chain? Us. And how much hair do we have compared to the creatures below us? Not much.

So why is that? According to Charles Darwin, the original exponent of the evolutionary theory, it was because our ancient female ancestors were sexually attracted to less hairy males. And as this BBC article points out, there were distinct – and vital – advantages to our species shedding our hair.

The balding question

According to the BBC article, there are several clues as to why we started losing our body hair.

For starters, as we moved as tribes into open hunting grounds, we suddenly exposed ourselves to more and longer hours of sunlight – and in order to cope with that, we developed more sweat glands to help us cool down. And to help us cool down further, we gradually started to shed our body hair.

The hair necessities

If that’s the case, why do we still have pubic and armpit hair? Because, unlike other parts of our body that have turned relatively hairless, it still serves a purpose: to provide a cushion to prevent friction that can cause skin abrasion and injury, not to mention trapping pheromones that attract the opposite sex.

And the remaining hair we have on our chests, arms and legs are a by-product of the testosterone we naturally produce.

This is all well and good, but where will it end? After all, as any mother in winter will tell you, we lose the most heat at the top of our heads: we certainly sweat there first when we begin a workout.

Which could mean that the loss of body hair could very well creep upwards over the next million years or so. And maybe, just maybe, men with male-pattern balding are evolving a little bit quicker than the rest of us.
(But we’ll probably still have that annoying patch at the top of our backs)

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By Ian Watson

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