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Sweat Glands - Where do They Come From?
That's a good question. How exactly did we end up with the millions of sweat glands that we have. There is no question however in terms of why they exist. Essentially to regulate or normalize our body temperature - a process we refer to as thermoregulation.
The idea of trying to figure out where sweat glands are from lies in our current understanding human evolution. Anthropologists and paleontologists have been able to answer many questions like this thanks to a proposed theory called the Savannah Principle. Millions of years ago, humans began to migrate from the forest to more open grassy land masses. This resulted is a significant change in the human living environment. More exposure to sun and its radiation represented a force of nature with which humans had to adapt.
And so, over evolutionary periods of time, humans began to lose body hair and their ability to regulate inner temperature became more efficient. The easiest and most effective means of doing so was likely the multiplication of sweat gland units. As our cooling mechanism became more effective, our ability to withstand the higher temperatures and greater exposure to sunlight also increased.
Researchers from Liverpool John Moores University in the U.K. also suggest that as humans became more erect in their posture (a theory known as bipedalism) they in effect not only changed their perspective on the environment, but also lessened their exposure to sunlight (by decreasing their surface area exposed to sun radiation) and increased their exposure to cooling winds. Both these effects would help in dealing with the warmer temperatures of the non forested grasslands.
What's perhaps even more surprising is evidence from researchers at Pennsylvania State University that suggests that the evolution of our efficient cooling mechanism (the combination of sweating and skin surface vasodilation) provided ideal conditions for the human brain to get larger. Given the brain is very sensitive to increases in temperature, the development of an efficient sweating process allowed humans to expand the volume of their brain. This represents another evolutionary process that set us apart from other related homonid species.
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