7

votes

Why does human head hair grow so long?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created July 24, 2011 at 11:58 PM

Why does human head hair grow so long?

C77468b20647fb7723a52f7e7cff3ef0

(0)

on July 14, 2012
at 08:06 AM

I do think sexual selection played a good part of it though.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on December 16, 2011
at 02:16 AM

I did give you +1, Harry, because I've always like giraffes. :-))

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on December 16, 2011
at 02:11 AM

Oh no! When did we pass a by-law that we have to be serious? A bunch of us are in BIG trouble. Besides, I think it's a fun and interesting question (spoken as a grandma with silvery hair.)

Dfada6fe4982ab3b7557172f20632da8

(5332)

on December 16, 2011
at 12:57 AM

Totally from random knowledge I may or may not misremember, but I think the lion's mane is more to protect the spine/back of the neck by hiding it. They only really have to worry about each other, and that's how they disable prey typically. May be completely wrong, don't know why I'd think that if I hadn't heard it somewhere though!

C61399790c6531a0af344ab0c40048f1

on July 26, 2011
at 11:08 AM

It is definitely Paleo but why does it need to be serious?

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19235)

on July 25, 2011
at 09:37 AM

I would not want a baby hanging on my hair.

8be7a492e2844e2ad5595a6c73974f99

(891)

on July 25, 2011
at 03:05 AM

oooo. strangely creepy.

Be1dbd31e4a3fccd4394494aa5db256d

(17969)

on July 25, 2011
at 12:50 AM

Like to wipe one's arse! Evolution by natural selection never ceases to amaze me.

Be1dbd31e4a3fccd4394494aa5db256d

(17969)

on July 25, 2011
at 12:49 AM

Good stuff. That was my first guess. Long hair is just so purdy. On men too. Wtf modern women.

A141571ee2453db572c9d3222657bf6b

(756)

on July 25, 2011
at 12:18 AM

the second paragraph is inaccurate with regards to african hair. however it probably is a result of sexual selection tied to bipedalism.

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12 Answers

8
E5c7f14800c5992831f5c70fa746dc5c

(12857)

on July 25, 2011
at 12:08 AM

Head hair is much longer than hair elsewhere on the body. This lengthening has involved several evolutionary changes: faster rate of growth, longer growing phase, increased density, and greater resistance to physical damage (Khumalo, 2005; Loussouarn et al., 2005). The multiplicity of these changes is consistent with sexual selection: the selective pressure seems to have acted on an overall visual effect rather than on one incidental factor. In some non-human primates, head hair has lengthened for apparently similar reasons, perhaps because visual attention tends to focus, as in humans, on the face and its surrounding frame (Darwin, 1936 [1888], p. 906).

Head hair has lengthened only in those human populations that have lived in the temperate and Arctic zones, including some that have back-migrated to the tropical zone, e.g., Austronesians in Southeast Asia and Oceania, Amerindians in the tropical New World. Darwin noted "the extraordinary difference in the length of the hair in the different races; in the negro the hair forms a mere curly mat; with us it is of great length, and with the American natives it not rarely reaches to the ground" (Darwin, 1936 [1888], p. 906).

http://evoandproud.blogspot.com/2008/04/why-is-human-head-hair-so-long.html

Be1dbd31e4a3fccd4394494aa5db256d

(17969)

on July 25, 2011
at 12:49 AM

Good stuff. That was my first guess. Long hair is just so purdy. On men too. Wtf modern women.

A141571ee2453db572c9d3222657bf6b

(756)

on July 25, 2011
at 12:18 AM

the second paragraph is inaccurate with regards to african hair. however it probably is a result of sexual selection tied to bipedalism.

7
095ef76482234d3db444b77d7ed01c29

(2755)

on July 25, 2011
at 12:57 AM

Because while I've still got some of it... I'm gonna grow it. :)

Old metal head, what do you expect.

Seriously though... I don't know the answer to your question. Evolutionarily speaking... the women seem to love my long hair so maybe it's like a lion's mane... the guy with the best hair gets the girls?

5
78fcdeee6ac4ee7d071bbac56b9e359f

(1025)

on July 25, 2011
at 03:00 AM

In "The Descent of Woman", Elaine Morgan's book covering her aquatic ape theory among other things, she claims that we lost our fur once we went into the water and gained a layer of subcutaneous fat. Once the fur was gone the babies needed something to hang onto, so our head hair (the one part of our body that was out of water the most) grew long.

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19235)

on July 25, 2011
at 09:37 AM

I would not want a baby hanging on my hair.

8be7a492e2844e2ad5595a6c73974f99

(891)

on July 25, 2011
at 03:05 AM

oooo. strangely creepy.

2
Dfada6fe4982ab3b7557172f20632da8

(5332)

on December 16, 2011
at 12:29 AM

I forget the book it was, but the unusual human topiary was described as an early species signal, in addition to the sexual connotations. You can imagine it would be very helpful to identify early humans when we still typically had more substantial body fur. It identifies (clearly) when an adult is past sexual maturity (baldness/turning white). It's since been co-opted to signify all manner of social markers and identifiers, the most basic of which perhaps is gender identity.

2
71af94295988d55cd3b8340e619729d0

(255)

on July 25, 2011
at 12:48 PM

"...hair growth is partly a product of domestication..."

Caldararo, N. (2005). Hair, Human Evolution, and the Idea of Human Uniqueness. Evolutionary Anthropology, 14, 132-133.

2
6f2c00fcbf48c69f0ea212239b3e1178

on July 25, 2011
at 12:07 AM

Maybe it was useful to cut it off periodically and use it as a natural resource.

Be1dbd31e4a3fccd4394494aa5db256d

(17969)

on July 25, 2011
at 12:50 AM

Like to wipe one's arse! Evolution by natural selection never ceases to amaze me.

1
Eedf46c82d0356d1d46dda5f9782ef36

(4464)

on December 16, 2011
at 12:47 AM

Why do horses have manes? It's probably an aesthetic thing, like feathers on birds and bright colors on fish used to attract mates (I have no science on this, just thinking).

On the flip side - thick beards combined with long hair could have a legitimate defensive evolutionary purpose.

I have a chow dog. He's got a think mane of hair like a lion around his neck. I've seen another dog attack him and go for his throat - all they got was a mouthful of hair and he was pretty able to twist out of the bite. Other dogs, like pits, have a lot of extra loose folds of skin around the neck area that provide a similar defense / flexibility when something is trying to bite the throat. I suspect a male lion's mane is pretty effective in protecting their throats during fights.

Dfada6fe4982ab3b7557172f20632da8

(5332)

on December 16, 2011
at 12:57 AM

Totally from random knowledge I may or may not misremember, but I think the lion's mane is more to protect the spine/back of the neck by hiding it. They only really have to worry about each other, and that's how they disable prey typically. May be completely wrong, don't know why I'd think that if I hadn't heard it somewhere though!

0
C4f1a0c70c4e0dea507c2e346c036bbd

on July 14, 2012
at 03:52 PM

Mine doesn't grow long. It used to grow thick though and curl at the end. Now my hair is thinning, but that started before I even knew about paleo.

0
C77468b20647fb7723a52f7e7cff3ef0

on July 14, 2012
at 08:04 AM

think about where we still have hair? our ape ancestors lost their fur but kept it in vital areas, head hair to keep the head/brain warm, pubic hair to keep our reproductive organs warm, and probably to hold in some scents/feramones on the hairs (released through sweat), just like in our arm pits aswell. We lost our fur because it over heated us and we kept hair where it would be usefull. Like in the ice age, having hair on your vital areas would have been a great natural deffence against the elements. Just some ideas of mine. As for the "Decsent of woman" comment, its all hypothetical but does make sence, i think it requires more evidence though.

C77468b20647fb7723a52f7e7cff3ef0

(0)

on July 14, 2012
at 08:06 AM

I do think sexual selection played a good part of it though.

0
030e4c293151bf6c70550dcfcfde0f67

(1537)

on July 26, 2011
at 11:08 AM

This is just a simple personal observation. I have had short hair for many years, and decided to grow it out a few years ago. My hair now rests just past my waist and thanks to my Paleo diet, is lustrous and healthy. I get hundreds of second glances from guys (and girls!) compared to a glance every once in a while back in the old days. There's something about long hair that stimulates the sexual appetite of most people, I think. Not sure what the evolutionary advantage is, except perhaps to snare a mate (in one's hair ha ha).

-1
Cf718750819ec72bcc60434366ef4dc4

on February 25, 2013
at 05:20 PM

mere bal jhad rahe hai kuch upaye bataiye

-2
Ffc7e0ecad8e8831b528c5d4921377cc

(942)

on July 25, 2011
at 11:07 PM

In what way is this a serious Paleo question?

C61399790c6531a0af344ab0c40048f1

on July 26, 2011
at 11:08 AM

It is definitely Paleo but why does it need to be serious?

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on December 16, 2011
at 02:11 AM

Oh no! When did we pass a by-law that we have to be serious? A bunch of us are in BIG trouble. Besides, I think it's a fun and interesting question (spoken as a grandma with silvery hair.)

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on December 16, 2011
at 02:16 AM

I did give you +1, Harry, because I've always like giraffes. :-))

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