Making Faces: The Evolutionary Origins of the Human Face

Making Faces: The Evolutionary Origins of the Human Face


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Humans possess the most expressive faces in the animal kingdom. Adam Wilkins presents evidence ranging from the fossil record to recent findings of genetics, molecular biology, and developmental biology to reconstruct the fascinating story of how the human face evolved. Beginning with the first vertebrate faces half a billion years ago and continuing to dramatic changes among our recent human ancestors, Making Faces illuminates how the unusual characteristics of the human face came about—both the physical shape of facial features and the critical role facial expression plays in human society.

Offering more than an account of morphological changes over time and space, which rely on findings from paleontology and anthropology, Wilkins also draws on comparative studies of living nonhuman species. He examines the genetic foundations of the remarkable diversity in human faces, and also shows how the evolution of the face was intimately connected to the evolution of the brain. Brain structures capable of recognizing different individuals as well as “reading” and reacting to their facial expressions led to complex social exchanges. Furthermore, the neural and muscular mechanisms that created facial expressions also allowed the development of speech, which is unique to humans.

In demonstrating how the physical evolution of the human face has been inextricably intertwined with our species’ growing social complexity, Wilkins argues that it was both the product and enabler of human sociality.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674725522
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 01/02/2017
Pages: 472
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Adam S. Wilkins is the author of The Evolution of Developmental Pathways and editor of the “Perspectives” section of Genetics.

Table of Contents

Preface ix

1 Thinking about the Human Face as a Product of Evolution 1

2 How the Face Develops: From Early Embryo to Older Teenager 32

3 The Genetic Foundations of the Face 65

4 The Genetic Basis of Facial Diversity 98

5 History of the Face I: From Earliest Vertebrates to the First Primates 123

6 History of the Face II: From Early Primates to Modern Humans 171

7 Brain and Face Coevolution: Recognizing, Reading, and Making Faces 212

8 "Postspeciation": The Evolving Face in Modern Humans 264

9 On Face Consciousness and the Future of the Face 307

10 Social Selection in the Shaping of the Human Face 337

Coda: Three Journeys 370

Notes 375

Acronyms 399

Glossary 401

Bibliography 421

Acknowledgments 441

Index 445

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