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January 26, 2004


Abiola Lapite

A "just-so story" par excellence - I almost took the guy seriously for a moment.

nelson ascher

Hello, Frank.
I'm unpersuaded too. First, because we do not have a way of knowing which sex farted more during the Paleolithic and the Neolithic which, together, comprise more than 95% of human history.
On the other hand, we know that, before the invention of agriculture, men (since they were the hunters and were stronger too) were much more likely to eat large quantities of animal protein than women, who were left with vegetable substitutes. Now, farting is associated mainly with the nitrates contained in leguminous plants such as beans, which are one possible secondary source of proteins. If a larger part of the diet of women consisted of this kind of vegetables than in the case of men, then probably for most of homo sapiens sapiens' existence the female of the species was the farter par excellence.
It may happen that, with time, men overtook them in this competition, but that's probably more related to social than natural causes: men show off, they urinate in public and in many societies it is considered a "macho" thing to impose oneself with one's body noises and smells, something that doesn't seem to happen among women. In other words: men fart to each other in order to signal to the weaker ones that they'll have to put up with his smell.
Finally, as the ancient Indo-European ethimology of "to fart" means "to break wind", it is also possible that as soon as women discovered articulate language they weren't left with enough compressed air inside themselves to fart as often as men.

Tony Allwright

Ever wonder why mounted huntsmen with hounds generally prefer to chase foxes rather than hares ? It's because foxes, as anyone who has ever tried to domesticate one knows, fart incessantly, whereas hares don't.

Moreover, dogs are inveterate arse-sniffers.

So when you see hounds haring (so to speak) after a fox, it's the delicious flavour of fox-fart that keeps them going, while the hares hide silent, odourless and ignored in the bushes.

I've no idea what evolutionary advantage farting gives the fox, but maybe it attracts the vixens.

Did perhaps the farts of Paleolithic and the Neolithic man similarly attract women (the little vixens) ? I've no idea. But sadly it doesn't seem to work today.

Frank McGahon

Perhaps, Nelson, the flatulence-inducing diet selected for females a more discreet method of emission?

A female who was capable of silently relieving the discomfort of trapped gas without immediately identifying herself as the source, would be at an undoubted evolutionary advantage in seeking a mate over a female less inclined to discretion.

nelson ascher

Sorry for taking so long in answering, but I was on my way to Brazil.
Yes, I think you might be right, particularly if we consider that in primitive/tribal societies there was little or no privacy at all: people were together most of the time in a cave or in a camp around the fire and, thus, the only way they had to identify the source of the mephitic emissions was probably through the sound made by these. If there was no sound, no positive identification was possible. On the other hand, there's the possibility that for tens of thousands of years our species has been losing its olfative expertise. Isn't it possible that during the paleolithic someone's fart was as easily recognizeble as looks or voices are nowadays? I can imagine a Cro-Magnon woman smelling around the camp, feeling the familiar scent of a fart and saying: oh, I see, my husband's back from the hunt and I also feel that, contrary to the shaman's advice, he has been eating mammoth meat again.

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