Unique Features of Human Skin

The skin is the major interface between the human body and its environment. It supports diverse and complex functions from protection to vitamin photosynthesis, thermoregulation, and communication. Although the structure and function of human skin have been well characterized, the evolution of human skin remains inadequately understood. Great strides have been realized in the study of the evolution of skin pigmentation, but the evolution of functional nakedness, humans' prodigious ability to sweat, and the origins of the human breast (the body's largest modified sweat gland) are still largely matters of conjecture. The skin's microbiome is emerging as one of most important factors in maintaining barrier functions, but much remains to be discovered about its diversity and roles in health and disease. How can the many gaps in our knowledge of the evolution of human skin be closed? This symposium will bring together scientists representing evolutionary biology, genetics, dermatology, anthropology, and physiology to share their knowledge and questions about human skin in an explicitly evolutionary framework. (from

Subcutaneous Fat in Humans. In this talk, Chris Kuzawa (Northwestern Uni) argues that human body fat co-evolved not just with the energetically-demanding and vulnerable brain, but also with the cultural strategies that humans use to buffer offspring intake. The human infant's need for ample baby fat traces to the fact that the main causes of nutritional stress at this age are infections, which force a reliance on onboard energy by reducing appetite and impairing digestion. However, by early childhood, we are less reliant upon this resource as a result of another uniquely human buffering system: food sharing and our cooperative strategy of caring for and feeding our young.

7. Subcutaneous Fat in Humans

Go to the Series Home or watch other lectures:

1. Skin, a Window Into the Evolution of the Human Super-Organism
2. The Genetics of Skin Pigmentation
3. The Skin and Ultraviolet Radiation: Effects on DNA and Carcinogenesis
4. Human Skin: Sweating, Thermoregulation, and Water Balance
5. Ecology and Evolution of the Skin Microbiome
6. Of Lice and Men: The Molecular Evolution of Human Lice
7. Subcutaneous Fat in Humans
8. Evolution of Hair Follicles, Mammary Glands, and Sweat Glands in Humans and Other Mammals
9. Naked, Colorful Skin and Its Role in Human Social Interactions