Why Do Humans Practice lip-on-lip Kissing While Other Animals Don’t?

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Technically kissing is strange and weird but we love doing it. Two people sharing saliva for a prolonged period of time as foreplay and other kids do it for fun. Some researchers came up with a finding that partners share about 80 million bacterias through kissing.

Kissing plays a huge role in modern romance and in weddings it’s used as a binding act. I still remember my first kiss as everyone else and it was totally weird because I had no idea what I was doing that time, but now it’s fun.

I used to think that kissing is a universal human behavior but surprisingly, not every society practice kissing as a way of pleasuring one another, new analysis suggest that less than half of all cultures actually kiss. Kissing is also extremely rare in the animal kingdom. The fact that most animals don’t kiss helps explain why some do.

A study done on kissing preferences discovered that only 46% out of 168 cultures practice kissing in the romantic sense. Previous estimates had put the figure at 90%. The new study excluded parents kissing their children, and focused solely on romantic lip-on-lip action between couples.

Tribes that practice hunting and gathering showed no evidence of kissing. The Mehinaku tribe in Brazil reportedly said it was “gross”. Given that hunter-gatherer groups are the closest modern humans get to living our ancestral lifestyle, our ancestors may not have been kissing either.


“Kissing is not a universal behavior.” William Jankowiak of the University of Nevada in Las Vegas said. “Instead it seems to be a product of western societies, passed on from one generation to the next.”

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“Kissing as we do it today seems to be a fairly recent invention.” Rafael Wlodarski of the University of Oxford in the UK said. He has trawled through records to find evidence of how kissing has changed.

BBC reports that the oldest evidence of a kissing-type behaviour comes from Hindu Vedic Sanskrit texts from over 3,500 years ago. Kissing was described as inhaling each others soul. In contrast, Egyptian hieroglyphics picture people close to each other rather than pressing their lips together.

Chimpanzees and bonobos, do kiss. Primatologist Frans de Waal of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, has seen many instances of chimps kissing and hugging after conflict. For chimpanzees kissing is a form of reconciliation. It is more common among males than females. In other words, it is not a romantic behaviour.


The bonobos kiss more often and use the tongue when doing it and it is believed that bonobos are highly sexual beings.

When two humans meet, we might shake hands. Bonobos have sex: the so-called bonobo handshake. They also use sex for many other kinds of bonding. So their kisses are not particularly romantic, either. That sounds crazy.

Animals do not kiss but the chimpanzees and bonobos are excepted. Most animals nuzzle or touch their faces together, but even those that have lips don’t share saliva or purse and smack their lips together.

The male wild boars produce a pungent smell that females find extremely attractive. From a female’s point of view this is a good thing, because males with the most androstonene are also the most fertile. Her sense of smell is so acute, she doesn’t need to get close enough to kiss the male.

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Many mammals also act the same as the wild boars. The female hamsters emit a pheromone that gets the males very excited. Mice follow similar chemical traces to help them find partners that are genetically different, minimizing the risk of accidental incest.

“Animals often release these pheromones in their urine, their urine is much more pungent.” Wlodarski said. “If there’s urine present in the environment they can assess compatibility through that.”

A male black widow spider can smell pheromones produced by a female that tell him if she has recently eaten. To minimize the risk of being eaten, he will only mate with her if she is not hungry.

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Human beings also behave like the wild animals. A study published in 1995 showed that women, just like mice, prefer the smell of men who are genetically different from them. This makes sense, as mating with someone with different genes is likely to produce healthy offspring. Kissing is a great way to get close enough to sniff out your partner’s genes.

Wlodarski examined kissing preferences and found out that people kiss to establish how their partners smell and the importance of smell increased when women were most fertile. It turns out that men also make a version of the pheromone that female boars find attractive. In male it’s present in the sweat and when the female get exposed to it their arousal level raises slightly.

“Pheromones are a big part of how mammals chose a mate and we share some of them.” Wlodarski said. “We’ve inherited all of our biology from mammals, we’ve just added extra things through evolutionary time.”

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On that view, kissing is just a culturally acceptable way to get close enough to another person to detect their pheromones. So kissing can be substituted by smelling other people to find the best match.

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