'Oh, Zorg, you have the hunkiest browline!'

Some cavemen were just too sexy for their shirt. Or pelt.

Men with strong jaws, broad cheekbones and good teeth may have been considered hunks eons ago, just as they are today, say paleontologists at the Natural History Museum in London.

Analyzing anatomical characteristics of modern day skulls from the Raymond Dart Collection at University of Witwaterstrand, in South Africa, the researchers have determined that the faces of male Homo sapiens contain some interesting geometric differences compared with female faces. As men evolved, the length of their upper face -- from the upper lip to the brow -- got shorter, relative to the female face. This effectively exaggerated the size of the jaw and flare (or width) of the cheekbones and eyebrows.

At the same time, the canine teeth shrunk over time, making men appear less threatening to enemies but presumably more attractive to females.

One possible explanation for the variation could be sexual selection -- That is, females found males with certain facial characteristics simply irresistible and chose them as mates.

"The evolution of facial appearance is central to understanding what makes men and women attractive to each other," lead author Eleanor Weston says in a news release. "We have found the distance between the lip and brow was probably immensely important to what made us attractive in the past, as it does now."

The findings appear in the online journal PloS ONE, published by the Public Library of Science.

For the complete study, go to www.plosone.org/doi/pone.0000710.


Janet Cromley

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