Tigers have their stripes, gorillas have their silver backs & humans have their chins. While it may not be as large of an evolutionary accomplishment as our brains or hands, humans are the only animal to have a chin, according to Smithsonian Magazine.
The real reason for our chins is still up for debate. Scientists have postulated that it may be to help strengthen our bite as our jaws shrank over the course of our evolution. Others say it aids in speech, or that it was used to help select a mate, but all these theories have significant challenges facing them.
One popular theory is that as our faces became smaller compared to other hominids such as neanderthals, we developed chins. This theory places the chin more as a side effect of other evolutionary forces, similar to how our wisdom teeth no longer fit most of us. Those forces, scientists argue, are the rise in our intelligence & subsequent mastery of tools & fire. With blades & fire to cook with, our food became considerably easier to eat. This, according to an article by University of Florida researcher James Pampush, allowed for a greater diversity of functioning jaw sizes, which eventually led to a smaller jaw with a chin. He supports the idea by showing the rapid pace our chins formed compared to other characteristics.
The Pointy End
While our chins have often stood out to us, from comedy chin legends to chiseled B-movie bad boys, we don’t really know what they are good for. Scientists say that reinforcing a bite at this area isn’t good physics, so it isn’t much help there. If it were about finding a mate, it would be more likely that only one sex would have this feature. A chin as a byproduct of other forces is also tough to prove, as gaps in the fossil record & no real scientific control make coming to a solid conclusion difficult.
Whether chins served a purpose or was just the result of other changes is what scientists today are trying to uncover. For now, we’ll have to be content stroking our chins & thinking about how singular they are.