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Studies Of Primates: Early Ancestors And Modern Lives (Essay Sample)


What do studies of primates tell us about our early ancestors and modern humans?


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What the Studies of Primates tells us about our Early Ancestors and Modern Lives
I. Introduction
Humans' closest relatives, the non-human primates, have much to tell us about our early ancestors and modern lives. Anthropologists previously looked at human gatherers/hunters as analogies to our early human ancestors, however, currently; anthropologists have realized that human gatherers/hunters have changed too much from our early ancestors to be meaningful. Conversely, great apes have not changed as much as humans have from our common ancestors. Therefore, anthropologists currently use them as guiding principles of our early ancestors.
II. Discussion
Anthropologists study living primates mainly because learning about species that are similar to the human species helps in finding out more about the human species. Studying the social structure, behavior, genetic code, and anatomy of primates can reveal major similarities and differences between humans and primates. From this, humans can learn what being a human means as opposed to being a primate, and further as opposed to other animals or mammals in general.
There are advanced primate characteristics and primitive primate characteristics (De Waal 102). The advanced primate characteristics are displayed by Gibbons, Orangutans, Chimpanzees, Baboons, and Gorillas. These animals are very social, groom each other, have shorter gestation, depend greatly on vision (binocular), and have some intelligence. The primitive primate characteristics are displayed by the tree Tarsiers, Shrew, Lorises, Lemures, and Monkeys. All of these primates heavily depend on their sense of smell, shave shorter gestation periods, and mark their territory. Their binocular visions are not so developed, and they are not so social. The more advanced primates are better analogies and assist more in the understating of our early ancestors than the primitive primates do. The perfect examples are orangutans, chimpanzees, great apes, and gorillas. These animals have behaviors and characteristics that are very similar to humans and our early ancestors (De Waal 102-118).
The least social of the apes is the orangutans; this is because the food they prefer eating is very sparse (scattered food distribution), which makes group feeding impossible. The orangutans have no social skills, which is best exhibited when they gather to feed together (Parker 92). In that regard, the orangutans are different from what our early ancestors were like. It is presumed that the orangutans were social beings because that is among the things that distinguished them from other animals, their social behavior and their great dependence on the group. But other features displayed by the orangutans help us see some similarities in our early ancestors. Orangutans have an instinctive curiosity and simple logic. This is major in human evolution since intelligence in tool utilization was a significant step in the chain events from our ancestors to us. Orangutans seclude themselves and spend time feeding in the trees, but at night, when they travel, they come down from the trees and walk on all fours (Parker 96).
Gorillas are placid and social creatures. They are very heavy to climb trees and therefore, most of their time is spent on the ground, grooming each other and feeding on leaves. Gorillas make huge and fierce displays to determine who their alpha male will be (Mitchell 73). Other than restructuring the dominance hierarchies, gorillas are very gentle. This demonstrates that our ancestors might have also been social. The grooming and social hierarchies were possibly essential, and feeding together became an integral part of that. One more thing seen in g...

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