Why our noses are different shapes
Left: The nasal bone structure of a person of African origin. Right: Nose of a person of European origin.
March 20th, 2013
12:06 PM ET

Why our noses are different shapes

There are pouches on each side of the human nose below the eyes that are called maxillary sinuses. They're involved in sinus infections, so you may already have a bias against them.

But Nathan Holton, a postdoctoral research fellow in the department of orthodontics at the University of Iowa, wanted to find out why there's such variation in these structures, and how they are affected by variation in the nasal cavity. A study on the subject is published in the journal The Anatomical Record.

Holton and colleagues took computed tomography scans of 40 people. About half of them were European-Americans, and the other half were African-Americans or native South Africans.

They found that the bigger the volume of the nasal cavity, the bigger the maxillary sinuses, in both populations. This is also associated with the overall face size, the researchers said, and suggests that the maxillary sinuses play a role in allowing the nose shape to vary. It appears that the sinuses make room for the nose.

But when the face size is about the same, maxillary sinuses tended to be 36% larger in people of European ancestry than of African ancestry because Europeans tend to have narrower nose shapes.

The various shapes of noses appear to be tied to adaptations to climate, Holton said. The nose must properly heat and humidify the air that you breathe. In a cold climate, it's advantageous to have a narrower nose. That's so that when a person inhales, more air comes into contact with the mucosal surface of nose, which provides moisture. The narrow nose maximizes the surface area.

"The fact that we have sinuses seems to allow for this accommodation of variation in nasal shape, which seems to be important, in evolutionary terms, with regard to climatic adaptation," Holton said.

The maxillary sinuses probably do not serve an important purpose in terms of nasal respiratory function, he said.

soundoff (1,756 Responses)
  1. Sprinter Heater Contol Repair

    I used to be able to find good information from your content.


    May 17, 2021 at 04:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Toy Maserati

    When I originally commented I seem to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on every time a comment is added I get 4 emails with the exact same comment. There has to be a means you are able to remove me from that service? Cheers!


    May 17, 2021 at 04:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Mercedes Sprinter Repair


    May 17, 2021 at 04:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Sprinter Repair Shop Near Me

    Next time I read a blog, Hopefully it won't disappoint me just as much as this particular one. I mean, I know it was my choice to read, nonetheless I really thought you would probably have something interesting to say. All I hear is a bunch of crying about something you can fix if you weren't too busy searching for attention.


    May 17, 2021 at 05:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Sprinter Van Seat Fabric Repair

    Everything is very open with a very clear explanation of the issues. It was definitely informative. Your site is useful. Thanks for sharing!


    May 17, 2021 at 07:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Jordan Tupper

    Have you ever heard of second life (sl for short). It is essentially a game where you can do anything you want. Second life is literally my second life (pun intended lol). If you would like to see more you can see these second life articles and blogs


    May 17, 2021 at 07:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Dodge Van Frame Repair Kit

    Everything is very open with a really clear description of the issues. It was definitely informative. Your site is very useful. Many thanks for sharing!


    May 17, 2021 at 07:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. My Blog

    300810 847613Really fascinating subject , appreciate it for putting up. 378046

    May 17, 2021 at 07:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Maserati A6

    After I originally left a comment I appear to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on each time a comment is added I get 4 emails with the same comment. Is there a means you are able to remove me from that service? Cheers!


    May 17, 2021 at 08:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Maserati Prices

    Hello there! This post could not be written any better! Looking through this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He continually kept preaching about this. I'll send this post to him. Pretty sure he will have a great read. Thank you for sharing!


    May 17, 2021 at 09:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Mercedes Sprinter Repair Near Mee

    Having read this I believed it was rather informative. I appreciate you spending some time and energy to put this information together. I once again find myself spending a lot of time both reading and posting comments. But so what, it was still worth it!


    May 17, 2021 at 10:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Maserati Reddit


    May 17, 2021 at 15:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Maserati Videos


    May 17, 2021 at 22:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. auto paint supply orange county


    May 18, 2021 at 03:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. rv roof leak detection

    I was able to find good advice from your blog posts.


    May 18, 2021 at 04:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. rv dealers in riverside county ca

    I could not resist commenting. Very well written!


    May 18, 2021 at 04:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. vcm collision center

    The next time I read a blog, I hope that it won't fail me as much as this one. I mean, I know it was my choice to read, however I actually believed you would probably have something useful to talk about. All I hear is a bunch of crying about something you could fix if you were not too busy seeking attention.


    May 18, 2021 at 11:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Build Maserati

    Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you penning this write-up and also the rest of the website is also really good.


    May 18, 2021 at 15:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. air conditioning parts stores near me


    May 18, 2021 at 17:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. 2021 Maserati

    Wonderful post! We will be linking to this particularly great content on our site. Keep up the good writing.


    May 19, 2021 at 00:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Social Media Marketing Near Me

    Greetings! Very useful advice within this article! It is the little changes that make the most important changes. Thanks a lot for sharing!


    May 19, 2021 at 00:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Best Eye Clinic Near Me

    Greetings! Very useful advice in this particular article! It's the little changes that will make the most important changes. Thanks for sharing!


    May 19, 2021 at 00:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Best Eyecare Near Me


    May 19, 2021 at 02:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Dara Hiott

    I don't know about you guys but I infatuated with airplanes. I have a friend in highschool that loved airplanes, so here are some airplane related stuff I don't know about you guys but I love airplanes. I had a friend in highschool that loved airplanes, so here are some airplane related stuff https://www.airlinereporter.com/2010/01/airline-livery-of-the-week-kulula-airlines-again/


    May 19, 2021 at 04:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Best Optometrist Near Me

    An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a friend who was conducting a little homework on this. And he actually ordered me lunch because I stumbled upon it for him... lol. So let me reword this.... Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending some time to talk about this topic here on your web site.


    May 19, 2021 at 05:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Maserati Stradal

    Oh my goodness! Incredible article dude! Thank you, However I am experiencing problems with your RSS. I don’t know the reason why I am unable to join it. Is there anyone else having identical RSS problems? Anybody who knows the answer will you kindly respond? Thanks!!


    May 19, 2021 at 05:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Social Media Marketing Market

    I couldn’t resist commenting. Very well written!


    May 19, 2021 at 06:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. natural energy pills


    May 19, 2021 at 08:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. FmrfEncox

    price comparison cialis http://cialisee.com/ acs cialis

    May 19, 2021 at 08:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Vsp Doctors Near Me

    Hi! I just would like to give you a big thumbs up for the great information you have here on this post. I'll be returning to your blog for more soon.


    May 19, 2021 at 09:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Where To Get An Eye Exam Near Me


    May 19, 2021 at 09:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Metal Fab Shops Near Me

    I’m amazed, I must say. Seldom do I come across a blog that’s both equally educative and amusing, and without a doubt, you've hit the nail on the head. The issue is an issue that too few men and women are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy I came across this in my hunt for something relating to this.


    May 19, 2021 at 10:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Spa Service Near Me


    May 19, 2021 at 12:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. RV Upholstery Los Angeles

    I need to to thank you for this very good read!! I absolutely loved every little bit of it. I've got you book marked to check out new things you post…


    May 19, 2021 at 13:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Sprinter Van Roof Repair


    May 19, 2021 at 13:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. JebgEncox

    24 hour drug store near me http://pharmacylo.com/ affordable pharmacy

    May 19, 2021 at 13:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. camper inspection near me


    May 19, 2021 at 15:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. repair rv shades


    May 19, 2021 at 17:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. camping trailer repair near me

    Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you penning this article and the rest of the website is also really good.


    May 19, 2021 at 18:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. LbsoZisse

    online generic cialis https://ucialisdas.com/ – cialis san diego cialis generic overnite

    May 19, 2021 at 22:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. RebfZisse

    purchase cialis in montreal http://rcialisgl.com/ – online cialis generic cialis soft tabs 20mg

    May 19, 2021 at 23:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. RV Shades Orange County


    May 20, 2021 at 00:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Marcia Haros

    Have you ever heard of second life (sl for short). It is basically a game where you can do anything you want. sl is literally my second life (pun intended lol). If you want to see more you can see these second life websites and blogs


    May 20, 2021 at 03:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. SEO Marketing Services


    May 20, 2021 at 04:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. LebnEncox

    online pharmacy birth control pills http://xlnpharmacy.com/ Casodex

    May 20, 2021 at 04:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Social Media Marketing Services


    May 20, 2021 at 05:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Digital Marketing Companies

    Your style is really unique compared to other folks I have read stuff from. I appreciate you for posting when you've got the opportunity, Guess I will just bookmark this blog.


    May 20, 2021 at 07:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Video Marketing Consultant


    May 20, 2021 at 07:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Google Marketing Services

    You are so awesome! I don't think I have read a single thing like this before. So great to find somebody with genuine thoughts on this subject matter. Seriously.. thanks for starting this up. This site is something that is needed on the internet, someone with a bit of originality!


    May 20, 2021 at 08:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Social Media Marketing Services Near Me


    May 20, 2021 at 09:15 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35

Leave a Reply to Clint Johndrow


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.