According to a new study, the human face evolved to combat rather than develop gradually based on the “nutty” diet of australopiths, human relatives who lived on earth about four million years ago. The fact that australopiths may have lived on a fruit diet rather than one based on nuts is now being surfaced. The features of the human face have apparently developed as a defense against fist fights.

Anthropologists had suggested earlier that the changes to the faces of australopiths, in terms of shorter and more robust jaws, bigger molars, bigger cheekbones and bigger bones protecting the eyes, may have been adaptations to changes in their diet comprising primarily nuts.

University of Utah researchers David Carrier and Michael Morgan used emergency room records as a starting point of their research centering the development of facial structure of australopiths and homo sapiens. They published their findings in the journal Biological Reviews.

They studied the injuries of modern humans as the result of a fight, in addition to the skulls of australopiths. The changing facial anatomy of australopiths provided evidence that modifications to the face ensued at the same time the proportions of the hand were changing to be able to form a fist.

“The hospital records showed that when humans fight hand-to-hand, they usually strike and injure each other’s faces,” Carrier said. “The bones in face that break most frequently are the same bones that underwent the most increase in robusticity in australopiths.”

The study reveals that the facial bones and teeth that seem to have changed to the largest extent to survive punches to the face are the most different between men and women at present. This supports the fact that as a survival measure, the facial features of men developed in a different manner than those of women as women were less likely to be involved in fist fights.

The researcher duo is facing harsh criticism for their new finding, which is being compared to an argument as unconvincing as the assertion that human speech evolved so that humans could lie to each other effectively.

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