Saturday, January 28, 2012

Nose Hairs in Humans - An Idle Evolutionary Speculation

If you think about it, noses are funny looking.  What do you think an alien or other species would think of our schnozes?   They come in all different shapes for different reasons.
They're quite different from other primate noses: 

There's something else that's different.  The inside:

What does having a lot of nose hairs say about our evolution?  Let's consider some possibilities

Do other mammals have similar amounts of nose hairs to humans? Certainly they may, but I feel like I've typically seen nary a nose hair in another animal's nose by picture, pet, zoo.  Might we be special in this regard?  Frankly, I wish I knew more about this, but I'll offer some speculation (because I enjoy thinking about these things).

-We have the same amount it's just that humans have them closer to the exit of the nose. Possibly because we have dextrous fingers? :)
-We have more nose hairs because we have little in the way of turbinates--cilia filtering, warming, moisturizing nasal corrugations. And why is that? Our ancestors needed to distance walk/run and therefore hyperventalate? What does that say about our evolutionary climate?  Moister? Warmer?  Less focus on smell?

Turbinates are drastically more complex and corrugated in other animals.

-Does it say anything about the specific evolutionary environment from which we come? High dust desert? High bug zone?

The response I received: Photo
Other animals have nose hairs, we are not special in that regard. The amount varies, but I couldn't say anything about how much exactly.
We don't lack turbinates. We have three sets, an inferior, middle, and superior. They are not as well developed as in some others, like say dogs and seals, but we have them and they are very important in helpig us to limit water loss through our nasal passages and to a small degree in helping to cool the brain (ok, only by about half to one degree, but still).
Most people think we evolved in a more open, drier climate, which was probably dusty, so it is possible we were selected for bushier noses than our more forest-bred ape relatives, but I don't know of any real studies on that.


  1. This is a great article that has been long overdue. Much more research to be pledged.

    1. Post if you come across anything fun or interesting!

  2. I need to find a medical journal regarding symmetrical patterns within human vibrissal follicles


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