Research ArticleEVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY

Dosage analysis of the 7q11.23 Williams region identifies BAZ1B as a major human gene patterning the modern human face and underlying self-domestication

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Science Advances  04 Dec 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 12, eaaw7908
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaw7908

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  • RE: Does a flatter face indicate self-domestication?
    • Marc Verhaegen, Medical Doctor, Study Center for Anthropology, B-2580 Belgium.

    This is an important and interesting paper, which helps explain how archaic faces could evolve into more modern-looking faces, but there is no evidence that flatter faces must indicate self-domestication. Young mammals generally have flatter faces, possibly because they have relatively larger brains (cf. learning?) as well as smaller dentitions and jaws (cf. lactation?). Domesticated animals generally have smaller mouths (cf. softer foods? safer for humans?), but often smaller brains. And wild bonobos can hardly be called domesticated. There is no convincing evidence that any of these possible explanations must apply to extant adult humans.

    In our opinion, the transition from archaic-looking faces to modern faces is less the result of reduced mouths than of loss of the mid-facial projection typical of archaic Homo. As compared to H.sapiens, neandertals had much larger noses and piriform apertures, no chin, retro-molar space, platycephaly (longer, lower, flatter brain-skulls), less basicranial flexion, the eyes situated more in front of the frontal brain than underneath it etc., as well as a lot of postcranial differences such as stronger iliac flaring, longer femoral necks, more valgus knees, shorter tibias etc. We showed (e.g. 2010 New Scient.2782:69, J.compar.hum.Biol.62:237-247, 2013 Hum.Evol.28:237-266) that all this has nothing to do with presence or absence of domestication, but everything with their lifestyle as waterside omnivores. Early-Pleistocene archaic...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.

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