Saturday, December 18, 2004

The evolutonary biology of acne

[Sorry - I had two typos in the title: ance for acne and evolutonary for evolutionary. Alas, if I fix the typos Blogger will create a new URL and break links to this posting. In this respect I consider Blogger's design to be, fundamentally, "stupid".]

IngentaConnect Article: Acne: A biopsychosocial and evolu...erspective with a focus on shame

Many years ago, it occurred to me that acne was far too common (80% of adolescents are affected) to not have some adaptive advantage. This thought came back to me while listening to a medical lecture.

A quick google scholar search didn't turn up anything interesting (this link, for example, is a particularly pointless article).

So why is it normal for humans to experience a (usually) transiently disfiguring condition of the face -- a condition that appears in women around the time of maximum fertility? A condition which, occasionally, causes long term scarring and decrease in physical attractiveness?

The condition must have large advantages to offset the impact on reproduction.

My guess is the advantage accrues to young adolescent females. It's a way to reduce their attractiveness, and defer age of first conception. Early conceptions may have high mortality for both infant and mother, and thereby increase the lifetime number of children. A condition that decreases the risk of early conception may actually have an adaptive advantage.

Any other theories?

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