I’m Glad We Don’t Have Fur
The benefits of a good library: Today I saw an article in the February issue of Scientific American about why humans don’t have fur.
It turns out that our lack of fur not only kept us alive, but made us smarter.
According to “The Naked Truth” by Penn State anthropologist Nina G. Jablonski, our evolutionary ancestors (like most other mammals) had heavy fur that kept them warm, protected them from bugs, and even provided camouflage against predators that might eat them.
The short version is that our pre-human ancestors lived in East and Central Africa. About three million years ago, that region got dryer. The plants that our ancestors used as food became scarcer. As a result, our ancestors had to travel farther in search of edible plants. About 2.6 million years ago, they also started hunting animals for meat. Both activities require a lot of energy. The furriest pre-humans tended to overheat, but those with less fur stayed cooler because they could perspire more effectively.
Eventually, pre-humans with less fur evolved into pre-humans with no fur. And their improved ability to stay cool permitted the gradual, evolutionary enlargement of their most heat-sensitive organ: the brain.
I’m very happy to have a bigger brain. But I’m also very happy not to have fur. Hairy legs wouldn’t match my wardrobe. 🙂
Copyright 2010 by Rinth de Shadley.