Between 1.2 and 1.8 million years ago, early humans developed got a black skin. It was long unclear why this was the case. Some suggested the dark skin gave better protection to acids raids in the East-African desert. But new research suggests that skin cancer forced humans to develop a black skin since having a black skin was an evolutionary advantage.
Human appearance changed dramatically during the last 1.8 million years. Notably, men lost their abundant hair, their ‘fur’, and their skin appeared. This skin was pale, just like modern chimpanzees. But somewhere between 1.2 and 1.8 million years ago, humans living in East-Africa, got a brown-black skin. This was the result of pigment dispersion, and the effect is a skin that is much more cancer-resistant skin. So it seems plausible that skin cancer was the driving force behind the dark skin, but researchers have long rejected this view. Skin cancer is rarely fatal in infancy. Thus, this decease wouldn’t affect the reproductive success, and, in evolutionary terms, there would be no reason to develop a black skin.
New research to skin cancer and youth mortality turned this view upside down. As it turned out, skin cancer is very deadly at an early age in East-Africa. Young white-skinned men and women do die in the sunny desert due to skin-cancer. This concludes the evolutionary importance of having a black skin in an overly sunny region.
More information: Medical news daily