6
color

As we look across the globe, humans display an astonishing variety of skin colors. In no other species do we find such a broad range. The reasons for this diversity are rooted in human evolutionary history and offer some of the most compelling examples of natural selection at work in the human lineage.

We can understand skin color in modern humans only by looking back at our evolutionary past. Earlier chapters have presented some of the key information, but it is worth reviewing a few points. Most species of our close primate relatives, the Old World monkeys and apes, have lightly pigmented skin covered with dark hair, which is probably the ancestral, or primitive, condition for the entire group to which these animals belong.1 Their skin contains differing combinations of apocrine and eccrine sweat glands; our closest cousins, the African apes, have mostly eccrine glands, as humans do. From this information, we can deduce the ancestral condition of the skin of the last common ancestor of chimpanzees and humans, who lived around six million years ago: it was probably lightly pigmented, covered

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Skin: A Natural History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Preface xv
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Skin Laid Bare 9
  • 2 - History 21
  • 3 - Sweat 39
  • 4 - Skin and Sun 56
  • 5 - Skin’s Dark Secret 65
  • 6 - Color 76
  • 7 - Touch 97
  • 8 - Emotions, Sex, and Skin 112
  • 9 - Wear and Tear 121
  • 10 - Statements 141
  • 11 - Future Skin 164
  • Glossary 175
  • Notes 181
  • References 217
  • Index 243
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