The Apparently Naked Human Ape



Despite appearing to be hairless to a large extent humans are in fact covered with peach fuzz and other hair types. This is because it is believed that over time parasites caused humanity to lose the thick fur of the Ape-like ancestors.

 Nonetheless the human body still retains a high density of hair follicles simply because those  densely packed  fine hairs have enough sensitivity to enhance parasite detection. They also serve to help keep insect bites to a minimum and are in density per square inch of skin on a par with any similar sized primates.  

 This fine hair on the human body is of the vellus or terminal variety -vellus the so-called peach fuzz –  terminal hairs the thicker versions. All have nerves attached to them, which is what enables us to so easily detect invading life-forms. 

Both University of Sheffield Department of Animal & Plant Sciences professor of entomology, Siva-Jothy and Isabelle Dean placed bed bugs on 30 male and female volunteers. The insects were placed on both shaved and unshaved arm areas.

Participants were urged to keep still throughout the experiments during which it was noted both  how hairy each student was and the length of time it took for bed bugs to prepare for eating. The conclusions were that each host more frequently detected the parasites on unshaved arms.

They further recorded that the naturally much hairier males needed significantly longer to detect the insects because their innate hairiness made the bedbugs have to work that much harder to get to the skin.

Anthropologists seem to be of the opinion that human body hair deters many kinds of potential insect invaders and can point to earlier sweat gland research for confirmation. Bedbugs and other parasites like mosquitoes, ticks and leeches were aided in their assaults on human ancestors by the thick fur, which caused humanity to start shedding it over evolutionary time. 

These same anthropologists appear to think it a fascinating hypothesis supposing  that ecto-parasitic life impacted on human evolution that way. The famous Desmond Morris once penned a book entitled The Naked Ape and conceded that the potential for returning to ape-like levels of hairiness is there for all biologists to see even if we are today far less hirsute than we once were.

Perhaps a more fitting description of the human body hair situation would have been the ‘at-first-glance’  naked ape because nothing is ever quite what it first appears to be in the wonderful world of nature.



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  1. TheBrit

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