Category Archives: Human evolution

I Got Your Hippie Ape, Right Here

Spotting my bonobo-themed T-shirt, a woman recently approached to say that they were her favorite primates.

“Not humans?” I asked, but I knew better. Thanks to Frans de Waal and other primatological popularizers, bonoboism has become widespread. I’m part of the problem, having written a novel about it as a metaphor for anthropology. But people looking for a “hippie chimp” are lionizing the wrong species. Continue reading

Do chimp fathers protect their offspring?

To some evolutionary researchers, parental love is a mechanism to foster the transfer of genes through successive generations. Feeling emotionally attached to our children, most humans feed and protect our offspring and prepare them to thrive as adults, including as breeders. But when did this start for fathers – did our common ancestor with chimps and bonobos do the same? Recent research among chimpanzees suggests that the answer is yes. Continue reading

Seeing snakes made easy

snakysnakersonHere‘s interesting research on the propensity of humans and other primates to spot snakes, even sneaky ones. Apparently, there’s a Snake Detection Theory (SDT) that says that our vision has evolved to discern camouflaged but dangerous animals, particularly snakes. To test the SDT, researchers in Japan processed photos of various animals so that they were progressively more blurred; in this way, they could compare how much clarity was needed before research subjects could identify the animal. The other animals were supposedly nonthreatening ones, such as cats and birds. (Not everyone agrees!) They found that people saw snakes in photos that were blurrier than the ones in which they first recognized other animals.

Assuming that the images were truly equivalent, this result bolsters the SDT. And this suggests that our ancestors lived with individuals who didn’t have this snake-seeing facility and thus died of snakebites before reproducing – that is, as children.