Tough Scruff

A lion stares directly into the camera, its mane filling the entire image


In a pandemic, EVERY month is “No-Shave November!”

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science, saying, “Wallop those whiskers! They can take it.”

Humans aren’t the only ones who rock facial hair. Chimpanzees, lions, and goats all have beards too. But why? Are they more than a fashion statement?

David Carrier and colleagues at the University of Utah have a theory — self-defense! They believe that beards evolved to protect the jawbone in a fight!

To test this idea, they whipped up some fake jawbones. Real ones are hard to come by. They wrapped small slabs of imitation bone in fluffy sheepskin. Some of these Frankenstein jaws got a shave, some didn’t. Then the researchers dropped a ten-pound weight on each one to see which would break.

Results? Turns out, a beard CAN take a punch! The bearded jaws were fifty percent less likely to break and better absorbed the blow!

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee – and don’t forget to wear a goatee! And a mask, please!

Reference: Beseris, E. A., Naleway, S. E., & Carrier, D. R. (2020). Impact Protection Potential of Mammalian Hair: Testing the Pugilism Hypothesis for the Evolution of Human Facial Hair. Integrative Organismal Biology, 2(1). doi:10.1093/iob/obaa005