OUR NEAREST RELATIVES
Bonobos & Chimpanzees 7 basic traits we inherit from our nearest relatives. What they mean for who we are vs. who we think we are.
Are We Really More Like Chimps than Bonobos? Perhaps in part to justify the violence of our recent history, our human story has been most closely compared to the hierarchical and murderous behavior of chimps which seems to have inspired the view of humans as aggressive by nature. The implication is that aggression is predominant in our makeup and there’s little we can do about it. But is this true?Surprising Characteristics We Share With Bonobos and Chimps In common with all animals, our abilities, societies and cultures reflect the same basic goal: survival. It’s not surprising that we share elements of these with our nearest relatives, but some characteristics we share are less well known, and quite surprising.
DISCOVERING OUR DISTANT ANCESTORS We like to think of ourselves as very different from other animals, and we are. But to better understand our evolution and our place in the world, let’s examine as far as we can with the evidence available now, where these differences lie and when and how they came about.
Australopithecines About 6.5 million to 5 million years ago, some 100,000 apes, the ancestors of today’s apes and humans, lived in East Africa in a forest shrinking due to climate cooling.
Homo Habilis Human beings evolved in Africa from a variety of hominid species over a period of a several million years. Between 2.5 and 1.8 million years ago, the first species called Homo appeared.
Homo Erectus Homo erectus or “upright/standing man” evolved from H. habilis. Erectus became bipedal at least 3 to 4 million years ago, and first moved out of Africa about 1.8 million years ago.
Homo Heidelbergensis Approximately two million years elapsed between the time H. erectus left Africa and H. sapiens followed. During this span, some African H. erectus evolved into H. heidelbergensis, named for the location in Germany where their remains were first discovered.
Homo Neanderthalensis Groups of H. heidelbergensis who left Africa became isolated from one another more than 300,000 years ago. One group that migrated into western Asia and Europe are now known as Neanderthals.
Denisovans It is thought that between 300,000 to 400,000 years ago, an ancestral group of H. heidelbergensis left Africa and then split shortly after. One branch ventured northwestward into Western Asia and Europe and became the Neanderthals. The other branch moved east, becoming Denisovans.
Floresiensis The remains of a 30-year-old woman were found on the isolated Flores Island east of Java. She was very small – standing only about three feet tall, with a brain size of about one third the size of our own and half the size of H. erectus.
Homo Sapiens The oldest H. sapiens remains to date were found outside of Africa at the Qafzeh site in nearby Israel, dating from about 100,000 years ago. But there are numerous additional sites on the Africa continent itself containing the remains of H. sapiens that pre-date the Qafzeh remains.
Book Review of The Gap The science of what separates us from other animals.
HUMAN UNIVERSALS What were the universal qualities shared by our early ancestors as they migrated out of Africa?
LATEST NEWS! Links to new information about the Human Legacy for this section.
RECOMMENDED LINKS Recommended sites on the web