Hey there. Nice jaws.

A study published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior discusses the fact that, among humans, men have thicker jaws than women (noted in this week’s Anthro in the News). Professor David Puts of Penn State University suggests that men have thicker jaws than women as a result of an evolutionary process of selection, over many generations, in which men with thick jaws survived and outbred men with thin jaws. The survival advantage of having a thick jaw for men, he postulates, has to do with, he postulates, a male culture of brawling throughout human evolution.

If you are comfortable with that explanation, what do you make of this website about women with pronounced jaws ?

UPDATE: The author of the article under discussion, Professor David Puts of the Anthropology Department of Pennsylvania State University, emailed me and gently informed me that I had followed the lead of a tabloid-style media source and replicated its distorted view of his scholarly article.

Dr. Puts is right, and I apologize. I usually do consult the original source rather than bouncing off a media report. I got so carried away with the jaws intrigue that, in this case, I failed to do so.

I have since read his 20-page review article which discusses findings from nearly 300 sources. On one page (p. 162), he discusses “robust mandibles,” suggesting that they, along with many other features of male anatomy and behavior (such as men’s greater muscle mass, strength, and levels of same-sex aggression, deeper voices, and beards), appear better adapted to excluding sexual competitors by force or threat than to attracting a mate. On another page (p. 168), he summarizes his argument that robust mandibles may have evolved to lessen the risk of jaw fractures during fights.

The comments about men’s jaws constitute a small fraction of the total content of the article. It is intriguing that the media source picked up on that material. Apparently, in the contestations of the B-grade media world, jaw size, linked with violence, might be a winning combination. I fell for it.

His article is the subject of a piece in this week’s Economist.

Image: “The truth is always up there” from flickr user dhammza, licensed with Creative Commons.

One thought on “Hey there. Nice jaws.

  1. I always fail to see the value in making these kinds of “postulates.” since scientifically they can almost never be substantiated or excluded. To counter Dr. Put’s claim I could point out that in many (most?) species it is actually the females that do most of the “brawling,” But then he would probably come up with an equally untestable “postulate” is to humans we are “abnormal” in this regard.


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