A team of researchers has identified four genes that dictate the width and pointedness of human noses, and the findings could provide us with clues about our evolutionary pasts.
The scientists who worked on the study, led by researchers at University College London (UCL), analyzed facial photographs of 6,275 individuals with diverse ancestral backgrounds from a wide swath of Latin America.
After combing the genomes of their study subjects for 14 specific features, from chin shape to lip thickness to forehead profile, the researchers were able to isolate four genes that determine nose shape and one that dictates chin protrusion.
One gene, RUNX2, determines the width of the bridge of the nose. GLI3, along with PAX1, controls how wide nostrils are. And DCHS2 dictates nose pointiness.
Andrés Ruiz-Linares of UCL Genetics Institute, who led the study, said in a statement that genes that are present to determine nose shape are also a good indicator of the environment in which people's ancestors likely evolved.
For scientists, information about the way our noses are shaped is more than aesthetic: It provides important clues to the unsolved mysteries of human evolution. European noses, which are generally narrow, may have been an adaptation to colder climates, researchers said.
"Identifying genes affecting nose shape provides us with new tools to examine this question, as well as the evolution of the face in other species," Ruiz-Linares said.