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September 2014

Saving Their Skins: How Animals Protect From the Sun

Author Affiliations
  • 1Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • 2Tufts Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts
JAMA Dermatol. 2014;150(9):989. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2014.333

A distinctive evolutionary change experienced by our ancestors as they branched away from their fellow apes was the loss of body hair. While this may have had certain benefits, our species has also suffered drawbacks; for one, without thick fur or hair to scatter sunlight, our skin is more susceptible to burning in the sun. Indeed, sunburns have been observed in other relatively hairless members of the animal kingdom, including whales, dolphins, fish, elephants, and rhinoceroses. But just as humans have evolved physiologic and behavioral adaptations to protect from the sun, other creatures too have developed their own.

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