, Volume 37, Issue 2-3, pp 113-122
Date: 04 Jul 2010

The Evo-Devo Puzzle of Human Hair Patterning

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access
This is an excerpt from the content

Humans differ from all other living primates in the sparseness of our hair. Even more puzzling than the overall reduction in our fur covering is the layout of the few tufts that remain. Why does hair grow mainly on our scalp, armpits, and groin? How does our genome designate these areas? Clues to the underlying mechanism can be found in mouse mutants and human syndromes, but the mystery remains essentially unsolved. This essay reviews the evidence, pieces together the clues, and formulates a tentative hypothesis in the style of a Sherlock Holmes story. The deductive reasoning of the narrative is aided by what we already know about an analogous locus in the fruit fly that performs a comparable function.

Homo sapiens are the only “naked apes,” though this phrase, popularized by Desmond Morris, is somewhat misleading. We still have a profusion of hair on our scalp and, as children, the rest of our body makes a fine, transparent “peach fuzz” called vellus. Indeed, the only truly hairless ar ...