I have always found the human link to non-human primates fascinating. There are so many similarities between us that it is hard to argue the fact that we share an ancestor.
Apes and other non-human primates share many of the same characteristics and traits that humans do – prehensile digits, color vision, and they even walk on two legs sometimes!
There are many things about their culture that is also similar. They are very much a k-selected mammal and some instances between mother and baby in the non-human primate culture can be described as almost human-like.
All of these different characteristics and traits provide a lot of information about human evolution – it proves that there is a definite link. However, there are a few other characteristics that are not so great which also prove the same point.
The violence and cannibalism predominant in many ape societies (specifically chimpanzees) is a grave reminder of the human past – and present, in some cases. Chimpanzees regularly engage in intergroup and intragroup fighting, feast on other monkeys and sometimes their own, and will kill the infants in their groups in order to mate with their mothers.
Despite the depressing effect these facts may have, they also help point towards the truth of the links between humans and apes.
Watching the videos and reading the links this week, I found a lot of information very interesting. I have not studied nor read too much about apes and primates and knew only that we shared a very common ancestor billions of years ago.
I had no idea how similar we were to monkeys, apes, and non-human primates.
I did not know that any species of ape or primate participated in “recreational mating”. I thought that such an activity was strictly human! But it definitely points towards how we developed into that thought process. Mating serves more purposes than just reproduction – it strengthens bonds and solves conflict. This must have been how are thoughts on sex began to evolve from a strictly copulating process.
Although I was aware of the violence in the primate community, I was shocked at how senseless the acts were at times.
While infanticide is tragic and violent, it does serve an evolutionary purpose – for the males to not waste resources on offspring which is not their own.
However, in the film, a male chimpanzee graphically murders an infant that is more than likely of his own brood. And even after the murder, instead of immediately mating with the mother, he and a few other chimpanzees feast on the carcass. Things like that shocked me – that sometimes violence seems senseless and without purpose in animal communities; again a trait I thought only possible in humans.
Something else that surprised me from the film was the segment about the mother chimpanzee who grieved so heavily over her dead infant, that she carried him around for a long time before finally kissing him goodbye and leaving his body.
There are so many aspects about non-human primates that shock me – the fact that they are so close to us in characteristics and physical traits is no less than fascinating.