Jane Goodall’s observations of tool use in wild chimps led the famous anthropologist Louis Leakey to comment “We must now redefine man, redefine tool, or accept chimpanzees as human!” According National Geographic News “ Scientist have sequenced the genome of the chimpanzee and found that humans are 96 percent similar to the great ape species.” Between discoveries in the lab and observations in the field we are realizing that the gap between what is human and what is ape is not as wide as was commonly thought. So what does it mean to be a Homo sapiens? Check out the chart below based on the Smithsonian Institution’s Human Origins Program for some of the characteristics that separate us from our ape cousins.

 

Trait

What’s the same

What’s different

Walking on two legs

All apes move in a variety of ways sometime even upright.

 

Only humans regularly walk upright

Tools

 

Lots of apes use tools to forage and hut for food

Only humans manufacture such a wide variety of tools for so many varied different purposes.

Social Life

Most apes live in social groups,

And take several years to grow up

Only humans take twice as long to grow up as out closest ape relatives and have a rich and diverse set of social groups.

Language and Symbols

All apes use lots of sounds to communicate

Only humans use complex language that allows us to communicate abstract ideas

 

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