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Blushing 'biggest gap in evolutionary theory'

Blushing is the biggest gap in evolutionary theory, suggests a leading scientist, who admits that the riddle why people go red in the face when they are embarrassed is still difficult to explain.

world Updated: Jan 30, 2009 06:31 IST

Blushing is the biggest gap in evolutionary theory, suggests a leading scientist, who admits that the riddle why people go red in the face when they are embarrassed is still difficult to explain.

Scientists are red-faced as they admit that while everyone does it, it as one of the biggest gaps in evolutionary theory.

To mark the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth later this year, New Scientist magazine asked some of the leading biologists to name the biggest gaps in evolutionary theory.

Prof Frans de Waal - a leading expert in primate behaviour at Emory University, Georgia, identified blushing as one of the last riddle in human development.

"Why do humans blush? We're the only primate that does so in response to embarrassing situations (shame) or when caught in a lie (guilt), and one wonders why we needed such an obvious signal to communicate these self-conscious feelings," Prof Waal was quoted as saying by the New Scientist.

"Blushing interferes with the unscrupulous manipulation of others," he said.

Blushing occurs when the blood vessels close to the surface of the skin in the cheeks, neck and chest open up to allow the flow of more blood. The small muscles in the blood vessels are controlled by the autonomic nervous system over which we have no control.

Prof Waal speculated on whether early humans were subjected to selection pressures to keep them honest.