Groucho Marx eyebrow glasses

At two years old, Corin recently discovered eyebrows. He reached his finger up one day and drew it across that hairy strip above his eye and then reached out again to brush over mine. His look was full of wonderment.

"Eyebrow," I told him, laughing at his happy concentration and the sheer absurdity of having two caterpillars of hair marching across our faces. "Eye-bow," he repeated, intent and delighted.

Eyebrows is Augenbrauen in German, which is such a fun word to say: Ow-gen-brow-en. It rhymes.

I've been able to give my son two ways to name that part of his body, but I hadn't give him any reason for their existence.

I started wondering what the evolutionary purpose of eyebrows is. I even bugged my sleeping cat by turning on the light and peering down into her face to see if she had any extra-thick hair ridge above her eyes. Nope. It's kind of the opposite, because it's actually sparser right around her eyes.

Then I thought: primates! I should see what other apes have. Nope. They have great big lowland gorillaridges, very Neanderthal and all that, but no extra hair up there.

So what do eyebrows do, other than to exist as a reason to pluck, or pierce, or dye?

Oh, beautiful interwebs, you never let me down.

HowStuffWorks in the saliently named article "Why do we have eyebrows?" explains that our mini hair strips keep sweat and rain out of our eyes by diverting drips out along the sides. This would have been an advantage for hunting prey – and for keeping away from predators!

If we didn't have eybrows, scientists postulate, we would have something else in their place, such as broader ridges like our chimp cousins, or maybe
super-furry faces like our cat friends. Or maybe we would make do by stapling real caterpillars to our foreheads.

Fortunately, we don't have to worry, because so far we've kept our fuzzy accouterments, the better to allow us to express ourselves. Although note from this, our most hilarious picture of Luna, that even eybrow-less animals can be quite expressive.

So there you have it, Corin. The wonder of eyebrows.

Groucho Marx glasses copyright scol22 via sxc.hu
Gorilla copyright Mike Harbison via sxc.hu


Blog Widget by LinkWithin