Why do children look like their parents?

Me, looking at my mini-me

“She looks exactly like you”, “She has her father’s eyes”, “That’s your nose”. That is only a small collection of sentences heard by me (and by all new parents).

What does determine the features of our faces?

Last week, Zanella and collaborators from European Institute of Oncology, published a paper on Science Advances about the gene BAZ1B. This gene is located on chromosome 7 and is responsible for the development of human face.

What is really interesting is that the same gene is involved in the domestication of dogs.

The researchers suggested that the first animal to be domesticated by human was human itself.

Compared to Neanderthal, the face of modern Homo sapiens is smaller, has more delicate traits, with less aggressive features and behavior.

The main responsible for all these differences with our ancestors is the gene BAZ1B. It is the master architect of our modern face, works as a conductor and coordinates 448 genes responsible for the features of our faces and for human social behavior.

The study provides an experimental proof in support of the long-formulated theory of human self-domestication.

The idea is that the first human beings have chosen as their companions more sociable and cooperating subjects, with softer facial features that favor non-verbal communication.


Zanella et al., “Dosage analysis of the 7q11.23 Williams region identifies BAZ1B as a major human gene patterning the modern human face and underlying self-domestication”, Science Advances, (2019), 5:12, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaw7908

European Institute of Oncology: https://www.ieo.it/en/

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