Associations of physical strength with facial shape in an African pastoralist society, the Maasai of Northern Tanzania

Marina Butovskaya, Sonja Windhager, Dimitri Karelin, Anna Mezentseva, Katrin Schäfer, Bernhard Fink

Publications: Contribution to journalArticlePeer Reviewed

Abstract

Objectives

Previous research has documented associations of physical strength and facial morphology predominantly in men of Western societies. Faces of strong men tend to be more robust, are rounder and have a prominent jawline compared with faces of weak men. Here, we investigate whether the morphometric patterns of strength-face relationships reported for members of industrialized societies can also be found in members of an African pastoralist society, the Maasai of Northern Tanzania.

Materials and methods

Handgrip strength (HGS) measures and facial photographs were collected from a sample of 185 men and 120 women of the Maasai in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. In youngadults (20-29 years; n = 95) and mid-adults (30-50 years; n = 114), we digitized 71 somatometric landmarks and semilandmarks to capture variation in facial morphology and performed shape regressions of landmark coordinates upon HGS. Results were visualized in the form of thin-plate plate spline deformation grids and geometric morphometric morphs.

Results

Individuals with higher HGS tended to have wider faces with a lower and broader forehead, a wider distance between the medial canthi of the eyes, a wider nose, fuller lips, and a larger, squarer lower facial outline compared with weaker individuals of the same age-sex group. In mid-adult men, these associations were weaker than in the other age-sex groups.

Discussion

We conclude that the patterns of HGS relationships with face shape in the Maasai are similar to those reported from related investigations in samples of industrialized societies. We discuss differences between the present and related studies with regard to knowledge about the causes for age- and sex-related facial shape variation and physical strength associations.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0197738
Number of pages14
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume13
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2018

Austrian Fields of Science 2012

  • 106018 Human biology
  • 106051 Behavioural biology

Keywords

  • ATTRACTIVENESS
  • BODY
  • DIGIT RATIO
  • DOMINANCE
  • GRIP STRENGTH
  • HANDGRIP STRENGTH
  • MEN
  • MUSCLE STRENGTH
  • REPRODUCTIVE SUCCESS
  • TESTOSTERONE

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