Men sporting big bountiful beards might have a reason to feel more confident. — and not just because women might be more sexually attracted to guys who can grow them.
Research shows that flowing facial hair might have evolved to help fight-hungry humans better absorb blows to the head, according a new study published in the journal Integrative Organismal Biology. The findings are the culmination of several research projects by the same team on human resilience, including experiments on the ability of the human face to take a punch and the human hands’ efficacy as melee weapons.
“We found that fully furred samples were capable of absorbing more energy than plucked and sheared samples,” according to the jaw-dropping experiment conducted by biologists Ethan Beseris, Steven Naleway, and David Carrier.
Fortunately, no humans were slugged in the name of science. Instead, the team employed an epoxy composite skull covered in several styles of sheep skin — plucked, trimmed, and full-on mutton chops (so to speak). To replicate a punch, they then dropped a weight on the chin, and measured the force via load cell.
The scientists found that “peak force was 16 percent greater and total energy absorbed was 37 percent greater in the furred compared to the plucked samples,” per the report.
Specifically, the tough tufts acted as shock absorbers that dispersed the energy generated by a punch just enough to prevent the fragile jaw from fracturing.
Researchers concluded that the beard may function similar to the manes of lions, baboons and other critters, “serving to protect vital areas like the throat and jaw from lethal attacks” during a fight. Especially as it sprouts on one of the most vulnerable regions of the body — the chin.
They added that “it is reasonable to suspect that these dimorphic facial features emerged as a result of male–male contest competition.” Not only that but the research is consistent with observations that illustrious man-locks often correlate with “greater upper body strength, social dominance, and reproductive success,” per the study.
Before heavily forested hipsters rejoice, however, they should note that the research has more than a few bald spots.
For one, scientists have yet to determine if beards also blunt blow-induced brain-rattling, a far more serious consequence of a punch than a mere broken jaw. Or as Science Alert so eloquently put it, how we “how we became naked apes with a penchant for punching.”
Nonetheless, the research should come as welcome respite to aficionados of facial hair, which has been shown to be a magnet for manure, bacteria bouillabaisse and indicator of minuscule manhood in past years.
This to say nothing of the coronavirus-spreading “flu manchu.”
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