Facial structure of men and women has become more similar over time

April 4, 2011, North Carolina State University
A forthcoming study from North Carolina State University, which examined hundreds of Spanish and Portuguese skulls spanning four centuries, shows that differences in the craniofacial features of men and women have become less pronounced. Credit: David Hunt, North Carolina State University

Research from North Carolina State University shows that they really don't make women like they used to, at least in Spain. The study, which examined hundreds of Spanish and Portuguese skulls spanning four centuries, shows that differences in the craniofacial features of men and women have become less pronounced.

"Improving our understanding of the craniofacial features of regional groups can help us learn more from , or even help us identify an individual based on his or her remains," says Dr. Ann Ross, an associate professor of at NC State and principal investigator of the study. The researchers looked at more than 200 skulls dating to 20th and 16th century Spain, as well as approximately 50 skulls from 20th century Portugal.

Researchers found that craniofacial differences between contemporary men and women are less pronounced than they were in the 16th century. The researchers also found that, while craniofacial features for both sexes in Spain have changed over time, the changes have been particularly significant in females. For example, the of modern Spanish females is much larger than the structure of 16th century females. This difference may stem from improved nutrition or other .

The researchers paid particular attention to structural differences between male and female skulls because "this can help us establish the sex of the remains based on their craniofacial features," Ross says – which is particularly important when an incomplete skeleton is found. "Being able to tell if a skull belonged to a man or woman is useful in both criminal investigation and academic research."

Assessing the 16th century skulls was important to the researchers because it allowed them to determine how the different features of male and female skulls have changed over time. "This has applications for characterizing older remains," Ross says. "Applying 20th century standards to historical remains could be misleading, since sex differences can change over time – as we showed in this study."

The study also found that the craniofacial sexual differences were very similar between Spanish and Portuguese populations, implying that standards developed for identifying sex in Spanish could also be applied regionally.

Explore further: New forensics research will help identify remains of children

More information: A paper describing the research, "Implications of dimorphism, population variation, and secular change in estimating population affinity in the Iberian Peninsula," is forthcoming from the journal Forensic Science International.

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1 / 5 (3) Apr 04, 2011
This is pretty obviously a nutrional and life quality issue. If you are barely able to feed yourself, and constantly getting all sorts of diseases, which we've mostly eradicated in modern times, then your long term health would certainly be affected in every organ system in your body.

I mean, they had no vaccines or antibiotics at all, so pretty much everyone got the cold, flu, measles, chicken pox, and plague, along with everything else, almost every time it came around.
1 / 5 (1) Apr 04, 2011
So, people are looking more androgynous than in the past?

I would have thought that sexual dimorphism had increased, not decreased, since apes have lower sexual dimorphism than humans, and you'd intuitively expect our common ancestor with chimps, which was a more ape like species, to also have less sex differences, and then this changed as humans evolved, giving women breasts and curvy figures, as well as pronounced neoteny in the facial features, lacking in other apes.

I suppose it's possible that sexual dimorphism increased from apes and THEN decreased after humans had been around for however long.

0.9 / 5 (51) Apr 04, 2011
No Q_C, it's evolution.
not rated yet Apr 04, 2011
I so pretty
not rated yet Apr 05, 2011
Well, at least it makes it easier on the crossdressers...

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