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How do babies get their faces?

Caitlin McCormack
Shine from Yahoo! Canada
May 12, 2011

It’s your most expressive feature and it’s the first thing people see when they look at you. It helps express to the world what you're feeling, and is unique to you and you alone. And now, science is helping us to further understand exactly why our faces look the way they do.

Your face develops in the womb during the first two to three months of life, and BBC recently released a time-elapsed video of photographs of a fetus in-utero, showing this process. You can watch the video below.

The images begin without any resemblance to the human face, and progress to what almost looks like a turtle head, before finally ending with the image of a face most parents-to-be get on their ultrasounds.

The scans also help to show how humans evolved from fish. You can see in the images how our eyes start on the side of our heads, and our lips begin as gill-like structures on the side of our heads before reaching their final position.

The only real evidence of this process is what was once thought to be a useless piece of anatomy – the philtrum, the small indent in the middle of your upper lip. If the timing of this activity is off by even a little bit, a child can be born with a cleft lip or cleft palate.

This isn’t the first time medical imaging has been used to explain unknown questions about fetal development. Last year, a team of doctors in Berlin used MRI scans to better understand the birthing process.

More from Shine:

First ever MRI scan of live birth

The most popular baby names

Homebirth vs. hospital birth

Surprising new way to predict the gender of your children

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