The facial features you most likely got from your parents are not as obvious as you think

By Lindsay de Freitas
07 May 2017

How many times have most of us been told: ‘You have your mother’s eyes’ or ‘You have your father’s nose’.

When it comes to parents and their offspring people are always quick to point out resemblances.

But recent research has proven that although family resemblance is undeniable, there’s a science behind which features came from mom and dad.

Using 3D face mapping software to study the faces of almost 1000 female twins a team of scientists at King’s College London came up with some interesting findings. The study found that the part of the face that is the most ‘handed down’ is the tip of the nose. The facial feature which is second most likely to be inherited from your parents is something many people don’t often notice - the space between your nose and your lip (called the philtrum).

The tip of the nose is about 66 percent likely to be the result of your genetics, while the philtrum around 62 percent.

Other areas often influenced by our genetics include the cheekbones and the inner corner of the eye, as well as the areas above and below the lips.

To conduct the study the team looked at the faces of 952 identical, and non-identical female twins.

They scanned the twin’s faces using 3D cameras and used custom built statistical software to calculate the points of similarity between the twins, and their non-identical sibling.

Using the analysis they created face maps which shed light on which parts of the face are most likely to be inherited. The researchers, who published their results in Scientific Reports, compared how similar these measurements were between identical twins, who have the same genes, and non-identical twins, who only share half of the genes.

They used their findings to create a likelihood code for 'heritability', which ranges between 0 and 1, with 1 indicating that the shape of the face is controlled by genes.

“The notion that our genes control our face is self-evident. Many of us have facial traits that clearly resample those of our parents and identical twins are often indistinguishable,” said the team's lead researcher, Professor Giovanni Montana. “These ‘face heritability maps’ maps will help identify specific genes shaping up the human face, which may also be involved in diseases altering the face morphology,” he added emphasizing the scientific value of the study.

Professor Tim Spector, director of the study added that the study also contributed to the science behind ‘identical twins’. “This study also shows us that even identical twins can vary quite a lot on facial features, but because of the key areas being genetically controlled, we perceive them as being ‘identical'.”


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