The key to understanding the size of your nose may lie in your prehistoric DNA. Neanderthals, our most ancient cousins, are the supposed culprits behind our big noses!
The big nose, a legacy of ancient times
Our bodies are works of art, shaped by the passage of time and the evolution of our species. A closer look at portraits from the past reveals a marked evolution of faces over the centuries. One element in particular catches the eye: the nose. This central protuberance of the face, impossible to ignore, is much more than a mere physical attribute. It represents our tastes, our standards of beauty and, most importantly, our genetic heritage.
Beyond aesthetics: the question of survival
Some of our nasal characteristics may have originated with Neanderthals. Indeed, recent research suggests that genes responsible for nose size may have originated with our prehistoric ancestors. These same Neanderthals could have developed large noses to cope with the icy cold of Eurasia, before passing on these key genes to modern man through cross-species breeding.
Glaring differences: the human nose versus the Neanderthal nose
A simple comparison of human and Neanderthal skulls reveals some striking differences, not least in the nose. Neanderthals' noses were significantly larger than today's average. It's also worth noting that the frequency of people with prominent noses seems to be increasing among modern humans.
Neanderthal DNA: our prehistoric heritage
Research conducted fifteen years ago revealed that our ancestors interbred with Neanderthals after leaving Africa around 200,000 years ago. Today, around 1.5% of the DNA of people of European origin, 1.7% of those of Asian origin and 0.3% of those of African origin is thought to have come from Neanderthals.
The role of Neanderthal genes
Some of these Neanderthal genes play a role in our immune system and our sensitivity to ultraviolet light. A recent study, however, suggests that they may also affect some people's ability to resist the effects of sunlight.
tabolize commonly used drugs. But that's not all: some of the DNA inherited from Neanderthals is thought to influence the shape of our faces, particularly our noses.
The genetics of face shape
To better understand these links, a team of researchers examined the DNA of over 6,000 people in Latin America. By cross-referencing this genetic information with images of their faces, the researchers were able to identify thirty-three regions of the genome associated with face shape.
The link with survival in cold climates
Furthermore, it was discovered that one gene in particular, known as the ATF3 gene, evolved as a result of natural selection. In other words, those with larger or longer noses would have been more likely to pass on their genes, enabling them to better withstand the icy cold of Eurasia. In short, the Neanderthal gene could have helped modern humans adapt to colder climates when they left Africa.