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Philtrum highlighted in sunlight
Precursor medial nasal prominence[1]

The philtrum (Greek philtron (φιλτρον), from philein (φιλειν), "to love; to kiss"), also known as the infranasal depression is the vertical groove in the upper lip, formed where the nasomedial and maxillary processes meet during embryonic development.

The philtrum allows humans to express a much larger range of lip motions than would otherwise be possible, which enhances vocal and nonverbal communication.[citation needed]


[edit] Pathology

When these processes fail to fuse fully, a cleft lip (sometimes called a "hare lip", or "meermeer") can result.

A flattened or smooth philtrum can be a symptom of Fetal alcohol syndrome.[2]

[edit] Etymology

The ancient Greeks believed that the philtrum was one of the most erogenous spots on the human body, hence the etymology.[3]

[edit] Aquatic ape hypothesis

The aquatic ape hypothesis provides a potential explanation for the philtrum[4]. The hooded nose in the human species is seen as an adaptation that is not seen in the apes, preventing water from entering the nasal passage while swimming. Several people[who?] have reported an ability to block their nostrils completely with the philtrum. This would have been a further useful adaptation for a diving species, though millennia of living on dry land means that this adaptation has not been retained by all people.

[edit] Mythology

According to the Jewish Talmud (Niddah 30b), God sends an angel to each womb and teaches a baby all the wisdom that can be obtained. Just before the unborn baby comes out, the angel touches it between the upper lip and the nose and all that it has taught the baby is forgotten.

Similarly, in other folksayings, it is said that an angel "shushes" the baby in the womb, to stop it from talking about heaven, or to forget. Other stories say that it is an indent left by the finger of God. Still more say that it is the spot where the angel put his finger to "shush" the child after having told it a secret. (This was memorably referenced in the film The Prophecy by the arch-angel Gabriel (Christopher Walken).)

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ hednk-032Embryology at UNC
  2. ^ FAS Clinical
  3. ^ Philtrum at eMedicine Dictionary
  4. ^ Morgan, Elaine (1997). The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis. Souvenir Press. ISBN 0-285-63518-2. 

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