March 23, 2008

The Natal Coat

As I was headed to Danville today to have Easter lunch with my family, Melissa made a special request. She asked if I could bring back from my parents' house a photo of myself when I was a small blond haired child. She wanted to include the photo in one of her upcoming lectures when she will be discussing the concept of a natal coat. Apparently, many primate species have lighter colored hair/fur when they are young than when they are adults. She can probably tell you more about it. Anyway, here's my natal coat.


Melissa said...

Yeah, a lot of primate babies have very conspicuously colored fur. We call this a natal coat. Howler babies were gold even though the adults had dark brown/reddish fur. Its even more conspicuous in some of the colobines (leaf eating monkeys of Africa and Asia). In some species the babies are bright orange whereas the adults are a drab gray. We're not really sure why such a thing would happen.

Apparently its pretty common, at least in humans of European ancestry, that children are blond but grow up to have much darker coloration. I have read that this also occurs in Australian aboriginal people-- many times children have somewhat blondish hair even though adults have very dark skin and hair.

There is some speculation that this change in coloration throughout human development is akin to a natal coat. Maybe its some kind of mark of immaturity, a signal that the individual needs extra protection, extra care, extra food, whatever. Its speculation, but it makes for interesting talk at anthropology parties.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE YOUR BLONDE NATAL COAT?????????? What an adorable CHILD!!!! With your blonde hair, and meli's auburn highlights,, perhaps your children could have ORANGE FUR!!-- :) Thanks for your SUPER HELP last nite with my COMPUTER...... You're amazing!!! Do you know where you were 1 year ago today??????? Til later, , have a good day, Hugs, nan