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
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
Here‘s interesting research on the propensity of humans and other primates to spot snakes, even sneaky ones. Apparently, there’s a Snake Detection Theory that says that our vision has evolved to discern camouflaged but dangerous animals, particularly snakes. To test the Snake Detection Theory, 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 Snake Detection Theory. And this suggests that, in the evolutionary past, our ancestors lived with individuals who didn’t have this snake-seeing facility and thus died of snakebites before reproducing and passing on their genes.
The list of distinctive human abilities keeps getting shorter. Once again, our close cousin the chimpanzee has chipped away a bit of our uniqueness. A new study demonstrates that these great apes possess the ability to mix elements of existing techniques to improve efficiency—a part of “cumulative culture.” Continue reading