Why men have beards according to science

Look a few thousand feet under the surface of the ocean and you might spot a triplewart seadevil, a species of anglerfish with a quirky take on evolution. Female seadevils grow to be around a foot long, while the males top out at around an inch and a half.

Male orangutans grow two to three times larger than females and develop a fat slab of extra face meat upon reaching maturity. Boy elephant seals grow larger than their girl elephant seal counterparts, and feature a wad of floppy nose flab used, against all logic, to attract the ladies.

The point is, as sexual dimorphisms go, the human beard isn't anything to write home about. Still, it's a weird line in the sand, biologically speaking: what's the point of roughly half of all humans developing itchier, warmer faces than the other half? Researchers have been mulling it over for years, and do you know what they've come up with?

Fat, hairy nothing, that's what.

Prickles that tickle are quite the pickle

There are plenty of theories.

In The Descent of Man, Darwin hypothesized that beards developed as a result of sexual selection — basically, men developed beards because women found them more attractive. In fairness, Charles Darwin saying "it's just science, chicks dig beards" is sort of like nineteen out of sixty members of the Polyphonic Spree saying "ladies love a man who plays a Little Tikes xylophone." There's a conflict of interest is all.

Meanwhile, scientists at the University of Utah have another idea — the Pugilism Hypothesis. In a research paper titled Impact Protection Potential of Mammalian Hair, they theorize that a thick lumberjack's facial coif helps soften the fisticuff blows which men inevitably resort to on a daily basis, the brutes. Long story short, sporting a thick beard protected the study's test faces from around 30% of the impact of incoming punches. Then again, in The Handicap Principle, researchers point out that beards make for prime grabbing material in a fight, so the risks would likely outweigh the benefits.

We may never have a definitive answer as to why some dudes grow luscious chin locks. For now, the best we can do is be grateful that they do. If not for facial hair, we wouldn't have Sam Elliott movies. Then where would we be?