New Theory: Experts Explain Why Larger Mammals Have Longer Faces

New Theory: Experts Explain Why Larger Mammals Have Longer Faces

The question “why the long face?” has been a popular joke for years, but scientists now have a scientific explanation for why some mammals, like horses, have longer faces. This phenomenon, known as craniofacial evolutionary allometry (CREA), is observed in various mammalian groups. Larger mammals tend to have longer faces, while smaller ones have shorter faces. However, there are exceptions to this pattern, which can be explained by differences in diet. Animals with shorter faces have a more efficient bite, making it easier to eat hard foods. On the other hand, larger mammals can “afford” to have longer faces because they have bigger muscles and can bite more easily. Longer faces provide advantages such as reaching more leaves or taking larger mouthfuls for herbivores, or fitting larger fangs in the mouth for carnivores. Exceptions to the CREA pattern usually involve a significant change in diet. This new understanding of face length in mammals can provide insights into their feeding habits and even help study extinct species. So, the next time someone asks a horse why it has a long face, it can simply reply, “because I can afford it.”

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