Living Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

pp 1-4

Date: Latest Version

Anatomical Adaptations for Fighting

  • Michael P. LombardoAffiliated withGrand Valley State University Email author 
  • , Robert O. DeanerAffiliated withGrand Valley State University


Combat; Physical Characteristics


Anatomical adaptations for fighting include muscularity, body size, the structure of the fist, the protective skeletal buttressing of the face and skull, and the distribution of pain receptors. These features evolved as adaptations for success during males’ long history of fighting with other males over status, access to resources, and reproductive opportunities. Because males fight more often than females the causes of selection on these traits would have been stronger on males. Accordingly, males exhibit greater expression of these physical traits than do females.


We are a very violent species and although recorded human history shows high rates of violence, evidence from contemporary foragers indicates that we were even more violent as hunter gatherers. Violence, particularly between males, is part of our primate heritage.

As in other primates, humans exhibit important sex differences in the propensity for violence (Wrangha ...

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