Research Highlights: Scientists provide new clues on how our hair has evolved


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Scientists provide new clues on how our hair has evolved

  • Hair is one of the most important features in primates which include humans.
  • Some functions of the hair are associated with thermoregulation, camouflage, protection, and signaling.
  • However, the evolution of the wild primate pelage is still not well understood.
  • Pelage is the covering of mammals consisting of hair, fur, or wool.[1]
  • Researchers examined whole body hair color and density variation in lemurs.
  • Lemurs are wet-nosed mammals with pointy snouts, long tails, and large eyes, and can only be found in Madagascar.
  • Lemurs exhibit vertical posture like humans and their bodies are vertical to the sun.
  • Researchers obtained hair color and density from museum and wild animals.
  • They also obtain opsin genotypes from wild animals and obtain climate data from WorldClim.
  • Opsin is a protein that binds to light-reactive chemicals associated with vision, phototaxis, and circadian rhythms.[2]
  • Researchers discovered that across the Indriidae family, lemurs with darker hair can be found in wet regions.
  • However, one of the genus called Sifaka, dark black hair is commonly found in cold forest regions.
  • Additionally, the red pelage population is positively correlated with enhanced color vision.
  • Researchers also found the follicle density on lemur’s crown and limbs increases in dry and open environments.
  • The study highlights the effect of selective pressures on primate hair evolution.
  • The study provides one-of-a-kind empirical evidence that supports an early hypothesis regarding the hair evolution of hominin.

Sources:

Tapanes, E. et al. (2022). Hair phenotype diversity across Indriidae lemurs, American Journal of Biological AnthropologyDOI: 10.1002/ajpa.24508

[1] https://www.thefreedictionary.com/pelage

[2] https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/opsin

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