The evolution of sweat glands

Abstract

Mammals have two kinds of sweat glands, apocrine and eccrine, which provide for thermal cooling. In this paper we describe the distribution and characteristics of these glands in selected mammals, especially primates, and reject the suggested development of the eccrine gland from the apocrine gland during the Tertiary geological period. The evidence strongly suggests that the two glands, depending on the presence or absence of fur, have equal and similar functions among mammals; apocrine glands are not primitive. However, there is a unique and remarkable thermal eccrine system in humans; we suggest that this system evolved in concert with bipedalism and a smooth hairless skin.

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Correspondence to G. Edgar Folk Jr..

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Iowa Quaternary Studies Contribution No. 47

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Folk, G.E., Semken, A. The evolution of sweat glands. Int J Biometeorol 35, 180–186 (1991). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01049065

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Key words

  • Evolution
  • Paleophysiology
  • Primates
  • Sweating
  • Thermoregulation