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Thread: Are certain human traits a result of neoteny?

  1. #1 Are certain human traits a result of neoteny? 
    Steff
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    Okay so the theory goes- as animals are domesticated, through selective breeding less testosterone is favoured. This makes the animal more docile, easier to handle and some think causes neoteny... Other (less obvious) traits seem to come along with this - like what happened with the wild silver foxes who (over the last 50 years) have been extensively bred to be tame. After about 3 generations they were considered tame, but many more generations down the line these things start happening- coat changes from black/grey to many variations:black, red, white. Paterns like spots appear on the coats, tails and ears change orientation by curving (like Pug tails, Greyhound ears), this as well as changed behaviour indicates signs of neoteny.
    So given that this happens with animals we've domesticated/neotenised - what (apart from body and jaw size) effects do you think our own domestication and neoteny has had on us?
    I've been wondering if maybe blue eyes could be one example of neoteny... has anyone got any theories they find interesting?


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    Forum Radioactive Isotope skeptic's Avatar
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    The blue eye trait does not appear to have anything to do with neoteny. It seems to be a mutation that appeared a few thousand years back, and proliferated - probably because it enhanced sexual attraction.

    Neoteny does, however, appear to be a part of human evolution for other traits, though. Our relatively flattened faces and relatively smaller amounts of hair are more similar to ape young than ape adults.


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  4. #3  
    Brassica oleracea Strange's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    The blue eye trait does not appear to have anything to do with neoteny. It seems to be a mutation that appeared a few thousand years back, and proliferated - probably because it enhanced sexual attraction.
    Without getting weird, that could be because it is neotenic.

    Neoteny does, however, appear to be a part of human evolution for other traits, though. Our relatively flattened faces and relatively smaller amounts of hair are more similar to ape young than ape adults.
    Does that suggest that we have domesticated ourselves...
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    Forum Radioactive Isotope skeptic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    Does that suggest that we have domesticated ourselves...
    Maybe.

    We would have to determine the evolutionary advantage these traits conferred, and whether that came through something like sexual selection, or simply because the people without those traits got killed.
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  6. #5  
    Steff
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    The blue eye trait does not appear to have anything to do with neoteny. It seems to be a mutation that appeared a few thousand years back, and proliferated - probably because it enhanced sexual attraction.
    Yes but all genetic change is because of mutations-thats basically evolution. any way i should have been more specific, what i was getting at is- all domesticated animals (Cows, cats, canines) now have pigmentation MUCH different to their wild counter-parts, so I'd be surprised if the same wasn't true for humans, especially since blonde, red hair and blue, green eyes all came around or not long before agriculture began.
    and the blue eye thing mostly somes to mind because alot of animals-humans included are born with blue eyes
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  7. #6  
    Forum Ph.D.
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    I think (misnamed) human 'hairlessness', that persists through childhood all the way to puberty (until variable adult patterns of hair growth emerge) is probably a result of neoteny. We aren't truly hairless in our juvenile form, rather we have very fine vellus hairs over the body that's not very visible. It's interesting that the thicker, more obvious hair that appears at puberty has to wait until that late developmental stage.
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    I think rather than neoteny, we should look at the influence of our intelligence and large brain size as well as our social and cooperative behaviours.

    The large brain size means that we must be born undeveloped and entirely helpless - otherwise all of us, rather than just some of us, would kill our mothers in childbirth - which isn't much help for breastfeeding. So we have a seriously extended period of infancy, childhood and delayed sexual development compared to other animals. The only ones I can think of with similar delayed sexual development are either very much like us or very long-lived or very, very big.

    Then we look at variations. Soon we find maturing and adult people who've retained some of those essential features from early development. They may be physical features like blue eyes or they may be behavioural remnants of childhood or adolescence. That may be an innate propensity or it may be that some groups, families, parents are not very good at teaching the immature what's required to become fully adult.

    The other behavioural issue is that, as adults, we must be able to socialise with and play with our youngsters just as other social and cooperative animals do. So we must necessarily retain the capacity for 'immature' behaviour. It's no surprise if that sometimes overflows into non-adult behaviours more generally.
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    Forum Professor Zwolver's Avatar
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    So you actually believe, that children will start eating it's mother right after childbirth if they were born fully intelligent and capable (like fish or spiders).

    I doubt that, as THAT would be an unpreferred trait evolutionary, it would very soon die out. And this way i can surely say this would, only incidentally happen. As in cases where it does, the genes will slowly die out.

    Though, i could see it happening where infants would start eating mother from the inside, while they were still in her womb. Using the mother as some kind of cocoon to burst from. Looks like a horror movie to me . Alien? But with more then 1 alien coming out.
    Growing up, i marveled at star-trek's science, and ignored the perfect society. Now, i try to ignore their science, and marvel at the society.

    Imagine, being able to create matter out of thin air, and not coming up with using drones for boarding hostile ships. Or using drones to defend your own ship. Heck, using drones to block energy attacks, counterattack or for surveillance. Unless, of course, they are nano-machines in your blood, which is a billion times more complex..
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  10. #9  
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    So you actually believe, that children will start eating it's mother right after childbirth if they were born fully intelligent
    Sorry I wasn't clear. Female humans are at very high risk of being injured, permanently maimed or killed by the normal process of vaginal birth. (Other mammals do not have anywhere near the death in childbirth rate of humans. They successfully give birth unaided, no midwives for them. Some social animals do hover supportively around a birthing mother or the newborn infant/mother pair.)

    This is entirely due to the exceptionally large skull size of human babies - required by the exceptionally large brains we are all so proud of. And even at that size, our brains as newborns are nowhere near the size and complexity of a normal human child, let alone a mature adult.
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
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