Did Your Ancestors’ Climate Determine Your Nose Shape?

They can be aquiline, narrow, bulbous, or turned-up. They can be runny, itchy, or red. There’s no doubt that the human nose is a distinctive facial ornament, and every person’s nose is unique. And while you know that you inherited your nose shape from your parents, a new genetics study suggests that your ancestors’ climate may have played a role in shaping your sniffer.

Researchers studied three-dimensional images of the noses of hundreds of people of Northern European, South and East Asian, and West African descent. They also looked at the climate in the areas where these different racial groups originated and were able to conjecture that temperature and humidity played an important role in deciding nose shape.


Your nose is for more than smelling scents. It also helps control the temperature and humidity of the air you breathe, which is why one’s local climate might have helped determine nose shape. At the dawn of the human age, before we had air conditioners and dehumidifiers, the construction of your nose may have helped to determine your ability to survive to adulthood and produce offspring.

People with narrower nostrils, like those of Northern European ancestry, can more efficiently humidify and heat up the air they breathe. This would make narrow nostrils a beneficial adaptation in climates with colder, drier air, as is found in places like Scandinavia. The opposite climactic conditions would have made wider nostrils more effective in places nearer the equator, where the air is hotter and more humid.

Though climate seems to have been important in shaping the nose, it was probably not the only factor at play in the matter. Sexual selection certainly played a role as well, and people would have chosen breeding mates based on local beauty ideals. These would have varied from region to region, and are much harder to study since millennia have passed since humans first began to spread around the globe. We do know that sexual selection must have been important, however, because the researchers also found large differences between male and female nose traits.

Scientists hope that this research may have practical applications in the field of crime victim identification. It is difficult to deduce a victim’s nose shape accurately when only skeletal remains are left. With this new knowledge, investigators may be able to more accurately determine what a victim looked like based on DNA. There is also a possibility that DNA left behind at crime scenes may help the police to figure out what a perpetrator looks like, although more research is needed as nose shape is only a fraction of a person’s appearance.

The scientists who conducted the study have conceded that there may be other factors that helped influence nose shape in different populations and are interested in further study of human adaptation due to ecological influence. But the science of how human environments can influence genetics is fascinating, and there will certainly be future research in this area.

Next Article
  • Prehistoric Frogs Show Us Life From 99 Million Years Ago

    Scientist and archeologists together have been able to shine a light into a lost world, finding frogs trapped in a sticky amber resin from over 99 million years ago. These frogs have been preserved in the resin and have most likely been there since the end of the Age of the Dinosaurs. [caption id="attachment_4700" align="aligncenter"...

    Read More
  • Walking Through A Door Can Cause A Loss In Memory

    It has happened to all of us, we think we know what we are looking for and suddenly you do not. As you enter the next room, you are left wondering why on earth did you walk through the door? You run upstairs to grab your phone before going out, and then when you get...

    Read More
  • When One Team Was Defending Both Nets

    When it comes to strange football matches there have been many, some point to the 31 goals Australia put passed American Samoa or the infamous AS Adema 149-0 win over SO l’Emyrne. But actually, the strangest match of football was between Barbados and Grenada during the 1994 Shell Caribbean Cup. ...

    Read More
  • Ball Lightning The Mysterious Glowing Phenomenon

    For years ball lightning has stumped scientists and caused panic all around the world. Many times it has been mistaken for UFOs and caused confusion, even causing damage to homes. And for many centuries it was a mystery, it made no sense when confronted with the norms of science. Was it something supernatural? [caption id="attachment_4691"...

    Read More
  • The Infamous Uranium Thief

    Whenever people debate about nuclear power plants, one thing comes up as a heated subject: nuclear materials are dangerous and having them in the area could mean they fall into the wrong hands. Well, that is exactly what happened in a power plant in North Carolina during the 70s, when two whole drums of enriched...

    Read More
  • Marine Snails Have The Strongest Teeth In The World

    When it comes to strong natural materials, you may think of diamonds or gold. Maybe if you are a scientist then you may think of the amazing spider silk from their webs, but you would all still be wrong. In fact, the answer may come as a big surprise: marine snail teeth are the strongest...

    Read More
  • Gunpowder Was Created As A Path To Immortality

    It is very difficult to say exactly what date and time gunpowder was invented, many historians believe it was created in China and others believe it actually originates out of India. Even harder is to know exactly what they were doing at the time when it was discovered, was it a mistake or were they...

    Read More