Male facial appearance and offspring mortality in two traditional societies

Lynda G. Boothroyd, Alan W. Gray, Thomas N. Headland, Ray T. Uehara, David Waynforth, D. Michael Burt, Nicholas Pound

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Abstract

It has been hypothesised that facial traits such as masculinity and a healthy appearance may indicate heritable qualities in males (e.g. immunocompetence) and that, consequently, female preferences for such traits may function to increase offspring viability and health. However, the putative link between paternal facial features and offspring health has not previously been tested empirically in humans. Here we present data from two traditional societies with little or no access to modern medicine and family planning technologies. Data on offspring number and offspring survival were analysed for the Agta of the Philippines and the Maya of Belize, and archive facial photographs were assessed by observers for attractiveness and masculinity. While there was no association between attractiveness and offspring survival in either population, a quadratic relationship was observed between masculinity and offspring survival in both populations, such that intermediate levels of masculinity were associated with the lowest offspring mortality, with both high and low levels of masculinity being associated with increased mortality. Neither attractiveness nor masculinity were related to fertility (offspring number) in either population. We consider how these data may or may not reconcile with current theories of female preferences for masculinity in male faces and argue that further research and replication in other traditional societies should be a key priority for the field.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0169181
JournalPLoS One
Volume12
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017

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Masculinity
Health
Mortality
family planning
Medicine
Belize
immunocompetence
Planning
Philippines
photographs
medicine
Survival
viability
Population
Immunocompetence
Modern 1601-history
Family Planning Services
Fertility
Technology
Research

Cite this

Boothroyd, L. G., Gray, A. W., Headland, T. N., Uehara, R. T., Waynforth, D., Burt, D. M., & Pound, N. (2017). Male facial appearance and offspring mortality in two traditional societies. PLoS One, 12(1), [e0169181]. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0169181
Boothroyd, Lynda G. ; Gray, Alan W. ; Headland, Thomas N. ; Uehara, Ray T. ; Waynforth, David ; Burt, D. Michael ; Pound, Nicholas. / Male facial appearance and offspring mortality in two traditional societies. In: PLoS One. 2017 ; Vol. 12, No. 1.
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Boothroyd, LG, Gray, AW, Headland, TN, Uehara, RT, Waynforth, D, Burt, DM & Pound, N 2017, 'Male facial appearance and offspring mortality in two traditional societies' PLoS One, vol. 12, no. 1, e0169181. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0169181

Male facial appearance and offspring mortality in two traditional societies. / Boothroyd, Lynda G.; Gray, Alan W.; Headland, Thomas N.; Uehara, Ray T.; Waynforth, David; Burt, D. Michael; Pound, Nicholas.

In: PLoS One, Vol. 12, No. 1, e0169181, 01.01.2017.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

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Boothroyd LG, Gray AW, Headland TN, Uehara RT, Waynforth D, Burt DM et al. Male facial appearance and offspring mortality in two traditional societies. PLoS One. 2017 Jan 1;12(1). e0169181. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0169181