Jablonski asserts that it was evolutionarily advantageous for pre-humans to retain the hair on their heads in order to protect the scalp as they walked upright in the intense African (equatorial) UV light. While some might argue that, by this logic, humans should also express hairy shoulders given that these body parts would putatively be exposed to similar conditions, the protection of the head, the seat of the brain that enabled humanity to become one of the most successful species on the planet (and which also is very vulnerable at birth), was arguably a more urgent issue (axillary hair in the underarms and groin were also retained as signs of sexual maturity). Sometime during the gradual process by which Homo erectus began a transition from furry skin to the naked skin expressed by Homo sapiens, hair texture putatively changed gradually from straight hair (the condition of most mammals, including humanity's closest cousins—chimpanzees) to Afro-textured hair or 'kinky' (i.e. tightly coiled). This argument is based on the principle that curly hair impedes the passage of UV light into the body relative to straight hair (thus curly or coiled hair would be particularly advantageous for light-skinned hominids living at the equator). It is substantiated by Iyengar's (1998) findings that UV light can enter into straight human hair roots (and thus into the body through the skin) via the hair shaft. Specifically, the results of that study suggest that this phenomenon occurs in a manner similar to the way that light passes through fiber optic tubes (which do not function as effectively when kinked or sharply curved or coiled). In this sense, during the period in which hominids (i.e. Homo Erectus) were gradually losing their straight body hair and thereby exposing the initially pale skin underneath their fur to the sun, straight hair would have been an adaptive liability. By inverse logic, later, as humans traveled farther from Africa and/or the equator, straight hair may have (initially) evolved to aid the entry of UV light into the body during the transition from dark, UV-protected skin to paler hued skin.
By contrast, some believe that tightly coiled hair that grows into a typical Afro-like formation would have greatly reduced the ability of the head and brain to cool. They reason that although hair density in African peoples is much less than their European counterparts, in the intense sun the effective 'woolly hat' produced would have been a disadvantage. However, anthropologists such as Nina Jablonski make the opposite argument with regards to this hair texture. Specifically, Jablonski's assertions suggest that the adjective "woolly" in reference to Afro-hair is a misnomer to the extent that it connotes the high heat insulation derivable from the true wool of sheep. Instead, the relatively sparse density of Afro-hair, combined with its springy coils actually results in an airy, almost sponge-like effect. This, in turn, Jablonski argues, more likely facilitates an increase in the circulation of cool air onto the scalp. Further, Afro-hair does not respond as easily to moisture and sweat as straight hair. Thus it does not stick to the neck and scalp when wet. Rather, unless totally drenched, it tends to retain its basic springy puffiness. In this sense, the trait may enhance comfort levels in intense equatorial climates compared to straight hair (which, on the other hand, tends to naturally fall over the ears and neck to a degree that provides slightly enhanced comfort levels in cold climates relative to tightly coiled hair).
Further, some interpret the ideas of Charles Darwin as suggesting that some traits, such as hair texture, were so arbitrary to human survival that the role natural selection played was trivial. Hence, they argue in favor of his suggestion that sexual selection may be responsible for such traits. However, inclinations towards deeming hair texture "adaptively trivial" may root in certain cultural value judgments more than objective logic. In this sense the possibility that hair texture may have played an adaptively significant role cannot be completely eliminated from consideration. In fact, while the sexual selection hypothesis cannot be ruled out, the asymmetrical distribution of this trait vouches for environmental influence. Specifically, if hair texture were simply the result of adaptively arbitrary human aesthetic preferences, one would expect that the global distribution of the various hair textures would be fairly random. Instead, the distribution of Afro-hair is strongly skewed toward the equator. Further, it is notable that the most pervasive expression of this hair texture can be found in sub-Saharan Africa; a region of the world that abundant genetic and paleo-anthropological evidence suggests, was the relatively recent (~200,000 year old) point of origin for modern humanity. In fact, although genetic findings (Tishkoff, 2009) suggest that sub-Saharan Africans are the most genetically diverse continental group on Earth, Afro-textured hair approaches ubiquity in this region. This points to a strong, long-term selective pressure that, in stark contrast to most other regions of the genomes of sub-Saharan groups, left little room for genetic variation at the determining loci. Such a pattern, again, does not seem to support human sexual aesthetics as being the sole or primary cause of this distribution.
Other articles related to "curly hair, hair":
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... The African hair texture is unique in the world, but shared with others as far away as the Polynesian Islands, India, and in North Africa ... The elliptical shape of the curly hair is thought to hold in moisture and allow cooling to the head in hotter Sub Saharan climates ... The "African" hair texture is not monolithic ...
Famous quotes containing the words hair and/or curly:
“A dolls hair concealing
an eggshell skull delicately
throbbing, within which
maggots in voluptuous unrest
jostle and shrug.”
—Denise Levertov (b. 1923)
“Those times I mussed his curly black hair
and touched his ten tar-fingers
and swallowed down his whiskey breath.
Red. Red. Father, you are blood red.
we are two birds on fire.”
—Anne Sexton (19281974)