Using photos of Tour de France bicycle riders, a University of Zurich researcher has concluded that athletic endurance and attractiveness go hand-in-hand – a relationship he attributes to natural selection over the course of human history.
Erik Postma, a professor of evolutionary biology, used photos of 80 Tour de France racers’ heads and shoulders and asked an online pool of about 800 participants to rate their attractiveness on a scale of one to five. In the end, he found that those athletes that were ultimately the most successful in the 2012 race also got about 5% better attractiveness scores.
“Within this preselected but relatively homogeneous sample of the male population, facial attractiveness signals endurance performance,” Postma writes in the study, published on Wednesday in the journal Biology Letters.
“Provided that there is a relationship between performance-mediated attractiveness and reproductive success, this suggests that human endurance capacity has been subject to sexual selection in our evolutionary past.”
The Tour de France is regarded as one of the most gruelling endurance events in all of sport, and endurance ability would have been paramount in ancient humans because of the need to cover large distances while hunting and gathering.
All groups of survey respondents – women not on hormonal contraceptives, men, and women using hormonal contraceptives – found the most successful racers to be the most attractive, but the results were the most dramatic in women not taking the pill.
Seventy-two per cent of the survey participants were female.
swissinfo.ch and agencies