• Question: Why did we evolve from apes and not any other animal?

    Asked by asiansupreme to Mike, Emma, Cees, Blanka, Anil on 29 Jun 2012. This question was also asked by issi2001, simplythebest, wiktor123.
    • Photo: Michael Cook

      Michael Cook answered on 29 Jun 2012:

      Hmm. Interesting question!

      Every species you can see today has evolved from some other species before it. To look at why we evolved from ape-like animals specifically, you need to look at what makes humans special and see why the animals we evolved from were able to slowly evolve towards having those characteristics.

      I don’t know what all of these things might be, but a couple of things that make humans special that we know we share with apes and similar animals are that we are very social animals, and we are able to use tools.

      Humans are quite weak animals, and we originated in a part of the world where we had a lot of dangerous predators. Our babies are very weak for a long time, and so they need protection too. The only way humans can survive is to live in groups and societies where they can look after each other. Many types of ape demonstrate behaviours like sharing, sacrifice and an understanding of fairness, and they also rely on each other for protection, just like we do.

      Tools are another very important part of being human. Today it’s hard to realise because almost everything we do is assisted by tools – I’ve got five or six on the desk in front of me right now. But back at the beginning of human civilisation, tools were what allowed us to survive anywhere. They let us travel, grow and store food more easily, defend ourselves, live longer, and co-operate with each other. And again, we can see evidence today that apes are able to use tools to achieve tasks they wouldn’t be able to accomplish normally.

      These aren’t unique to apes – other animals have been seen using tools, and many animals are quite social. But if you look at apes I think you can begin to see what abilities they had that allowed some ancestor of theirs to break off and eventually become the modern human. 🙂

      Was that answer okay? I’m not an expert in this, but I early civilisation is really interesting to me!

    • Photo: Emma Trantham

      Emma Trantham answered on 2 Jul 2012:

      This is quite a tricky question and Mike’s done a great job of answering it.

      We evolved from apes because those animals had something about them that gave them an advantage over other apes. This change was passed down through the generations along with other little changes that helped the species survive and so ultimately we ended up looking very different.

      I think it’s important to remember that the great apes around today have also evolved from our ancestor (by that I mean, the apes and us have an ancestor in common a long long long time ago). They’ve been evolving for a similar amount of time as we have (it’s not just us humans that evolve) and so they may look as different from our shared ancestor as we do.

      Does that make sense?