Zoologist claims sexual preference led the naked ape to lose its hair

DANNY PENMAN

Humanity lost its natural fur coat during the climate's last episode of global warming, according to Dr Charles Goodhart, a retired zoologist from Cambridge University.

Humans, he said, became naked apes in the balmy days before the start of the last ice age. Men and women liked what they saw and the process of "sexual selection" reinforced the drive for nakedness. His theory contradicts the book of Genesis in which Adam and Eve, on seeing their nakedness, became ashamed.

He said also that there was probably no overwhelming evolutionary logic for the desire for naked over furry bodies; sexual selection can produce many strange features - provided they do not hamper survival.

Dr Goodhart claims that humanity lost its fur because primitive men preferred naked women, rather than females preferring hairless males. "Even today women do not mind hairy men but men do not like women with beards, moustaches and hairy chests," he said.

According to Dr Goodhart, humanity began to shed its fur between the last two ice ages, 70,000-120,000 years ago. As the Earth's temperature rose, our immediate ancestors migrated north and began to lose their fur because of sexual selection. The climate was reasonably warm so a thick coat was not needed for survival.

As the ice returned, mankind was forced to move south once more, and was faced with a major problem: fur had doubled as a sun-screen, and, without protection, pale bodies would fry in the sun. This led to different geographical groups evolving at least four varieties of skin pigment to prevent sunburn.

Consequently, Dr Goodhart suggests, a common ancestor to all races must have evolved in high latitudes away from the burning tropical sun. As humanity migrated south to escape the advancing ice, the different skin pigments were developed.

Dr Goodhart's theory on humanity's possible birthplace is in direct contrast with the other two main theories. One suggests that humans developed in many places across the old world, and the other claims that humanity arose first in Africa and moved on to colonise the world. Other evolutionary biologists have suggested that fur was shed to keep cool in the tropical sun, or that humans had an aquatic stage in their evolution and body hair became unnecessary.

The currently accepted theory, that the hair was lost under the tropical sun, relies on the fact that sweaty fur is a poor way of losing heat. Without the large, heat-exchanging ears of the elephant, or the ability to pant like a dog, humankind relies on sweating to keep cool, and this requires large areas of naked flesh. Consequently, the theory states, fur was lost when humanity moved from the forests to the plains - about two million years ago.

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