(PHYSORG)- White Americans' heads are getting bigger. That's according to research by forensic anthropologists at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Lee Jantz, coordinator of UT's Forensic Anthropology Center (FAC); Richard Jantz, professor emeritus and former director of the FAC; and Joanne Devlin, adjunct assistant professor, examined 1,500 skulls dating back to the mid-1800s through the mid-1980s. They noticed U.S. skulls have become larger, taller and narrower as seen from the front and faces have become significantly narrower and higher.
The researchers cannot pinpoint a reason as to why American head shapes are changing and whether it is primarily due to evolution or lifestyle changes.
"The varieties of changes that have swept American life make determining an exact cause an endlessly complicated proposition," said Lee Jantz. "It likely results from modified growth patterns because of better nutrition, lower infant and maternal mortality, less physical work, and a breakdown of former ethnic barriers to marriage. Which of these is paramount we do not know."
The researchers found that the average height from the base to the top of the skull in men has increased by eight millimeters (0.3 inches). The skull size has grown by 200 cubic centimeters, a space equivalent to a tennis ball. In women, the corresponding increases are seven millimeters and 180 cubic centimeters.
Skull height has increased 6.8 percent since the late 1800s, while body height has increased 5.6 percent and femur length has only increased about 2 percent. Also, skull-height has continued to change whereas the overall heightening has recently slowed or stopped.