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FireMadeFlesh's avatar

Why do humans have such soft skin?

Asked by FireMadeFlesh (14616 points ) 3 weeks ago

I cannot think of another mammal that has skin as fragile as that of a human. A paper cut is, I think, a purely human problem. Why is this? Why did we not maintain the tough skin of the other great apes?

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5 Answers

JLeslie's avatar

Do other mammals have tougher skin? I had no idea. Most are covered in fur. I would think since humans protect themselves from elements other ways our evolution was to not have very tough skin. When humans stay out in the sun a lot the skin does toughen over time.

jerv's avatar

Thick skin is less sensitive.

Humanity has fairly acute senses of touch and vision compared to much of the animal kingdom. While we may lack the practically telescopic vision of an eagle or the night vision of a cat, we do have excellent color vision, depth perception that many herbivores lack, and a wider field of vision than most predators.

As we humans rely so heavily on our dexterity, a good sense of touch is a must. Touch is how we interact with the world, and (to an extent) how it interacts with us. It allows us to feel things that may cause us injury and react appropriately before we get hurt; reach towards a hot stove slowly and I guarantee it will be uncomfortable long before you smell sizzling flesh. If you had the hide of an elephant, you’d get horribly burned before you felt a thing. Okay, now put on a set of welding gloves and try to write… or even pick up a pen/pencil.

Of course, there are trade-offs. Our sense of smell is sup-par, our hearing rather less sensitive than many animals, and our skin pays for that sensitivity by being easier to damage (or rather, injure; it’s technically an organ). But our sense of touch allows us to to the whole tool-making thing far better than a more ham-fisted species of equal intelligence probably could.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

My chihuahua has very soft skin. I think the amount of fur can mask skin softness. I don’t know if we have any regulars that are zoologists or biologists anymore who can give a scientific answer.

livelaughlove21's avatar

Have you ever felt the skin on the belly of a dog? It’s pretty damn soft and thin. I don’t think animals are big babies like us humans, so a cut like a paper cut probably wouldn’t bother them – not that we could tell, anyway.

Darth_Algar's avatar

I’m going to guess that paper cuts are a purely human problem because humans are the only animal that handles paper. Just a hunch I have.

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