Blog Four: Non-Human Primate and Human Connections

This past week focusing on primatology was of extreme interest to me. The study of non-human primates provides an incredible amount of information about human primate evolution. The study provides many answers to life’s big questions and offers scientific data to close the gap between humans and non- human primates. Reflecting upon this lesson, there is an undeniable truth that the two are closely related and have evolved from each other.
Humans and non-human primates have similarities that encompass social and physical life. As seen in many of the videos and lectures, we both belong to social groups. The Article focusing on chimpanzee war was extremely shocking to me. Jane Goodall was shocked when she observed her beloved chimpanzee populations started to attack each other. Jane observed a war break out between a split in the groups. Over the next few months, we watched as the dominant chimpanzee population brutally attack and murdered each and every male member of the opposing tribe. The strategic attacks, stealth, and overall military ability of the chimpanzees was something which was too similar to humans to dismiss. As humans, we can see so many parallels to this throughout the existence of humankind. This poses the question of whether humans are inheritably violent, or rather, nature versus nurture.
For thousands of years, man has waged war after war over love affair, territory, or power. Studying non-human primates have also shown that chimps and others alike groom themselves as well as need love and affection. Studies have shown that baby primates always prefer affection and comfort, rather than just basic needs. Even mating behavior can be argued to match that of humans, with certain species participating in sexual intercourse, not to procreate, but for pleasure.
We also have notable similar physical traits. Other than the distinctly similar facial features between humans and chimps, we share 96 percent of our DNA with them. We have unique opposable thumbs used to grasp things, extremely similar bone and facial patterns, and similar walking and running abilities. Seeing different species use tools the same way humans do was also an extremely cool realization. Although not as complex and made out of products which were in surrounding environments, the non-human primates showed an advanced knowledge and skillset that is often not found in many other species besides human beings.
What I found so shocking is what a two to four percent genetic difference can do in primates. As we have learned in the previous weeks, genetics are what make each and every one of us so unique, and even something as slight as a one percent modification in genetic code can result in a difference so great, it is almost unrecognizable. As a result, the study of these animals can also help us better understand that of human nature. Seeing scientific research and the study of non-human primates only reinforces my idea of evolution. It is so clear that there exists a large (and undeniable) evolutionary bridge between the two. How cool is it that we are starting to figure out more and more about not only human “races” connections, but also our connections to other sentient beings which roam the same planet!

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