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When and where did humans split from the apes to become a separate branch of bipeds? Are we an ape or not? If so, which of the living Great Apes is the closest to humans? European philosophers and scientists have debated questions like these for more than three centuries.
From the pre-evolutionary musings of sixteenth century Dutch anatomists like Nicolaes Tulp and eighteenth century naturalists such as Carl Linnaeusto the father of evolutionary biology, Charles Darwinand his successors, Western scholars have long pondered where among the living primates humans belong.
Huxleyin the late nineteenth century seemed to reveal that gorillas and chimpanzees were physically more alike than either species was to humans.
This also squared with Apes ogallala aquifer view that humans were very distinct from the other African Apes, having evolved for longer, and perhaps at a faster rate, to obtain highly distinctive features like our upright posture, bipedal locomotion and big brains.
It was unclear, however, which of the hundreds of extinct ape species found during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in Africa, Europe and Asia, dating from the period 10 million to 35 million years old, gave rise to the human lineage. By the mids this seemed to be solved. David Pilbeam of Harvard University argued that Ramapithecus, a 14 million year old ape from the Siwalik Mountains of Pakistan, but also found in East Africa, was the earliest member of the human line.
It was even suggested that humans had split from a common ancestor with the African apes by about 30 million years ago, making our evolution a very long process indeed.
Coincidentally, at the time Ramapithecus was being touted as the first human ancestor, pioneers of the nascent field of molecular biology were beginning to compare blood proteins among different mammals, including humans and apes, to study their evolution.
Their findings were poised to cause a major upset among anthropologists, and would come to set the framework for understanding the origins of the human branch until today.
Emile Zuckerkandl and twice Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling were among the many workers studying haemoglobin, and were interested in differences between humans and the gorilla.
The neutrality of these mutations meant they could be used as a yardstick of evolutionary distance - the more mutations accumulated, the longer the time since the species split.
Although the molecular clock is now a well established tool in evolutionary biology, it is not without its controversies or detractors. With the advent of ancient DNA sequencing, we can even study clocks in extinct species and get a handle on whether its ticking rate has changed over time.
These first molecular clocks suggested humans and gorillas had separated only around 11 million years ago, not 30 million as suggested by fossils like Ramapithecus. Surprisingly, this date is remarkably similar to even the most recent molecular clock estimates as well as the latest fossil discoveries, as we shall see later, indicating gorillas diverged between 8.
Incidentally, once the bony face of Ramapithecus was unearthed from the fosil record of Pakistan in the early s, the human status of this ape was quickly reassessed. When it comes to studying Great Ape evolution, especially chimpanzees, we have so little to go on from the fossil record that we have no choice but reply heavily on genomic evidence.
As it turns out, everything we know about chimp evolution has been garnered from their genomes: Pan troglodytes had its genome sequenced inwhile the bonobo species: Pan paniscus only had its genetic code fully read in But, for a good portion of the twentieth century, the precise branching arrangements of the African ape tree - whether humans were closest to either of the apes or sat out on our own - were contested.19 Feb , am Comment: A 1p charge for retailers is a great start, but our shopping habits must change if fashion is to be more sustainable.
When and where did humans split from the apes to become a separate branch of bipeds? Are we an ape or not? If so, which of the living Great Apes is the closest to humans? European philosophers and.
1 APES REVIEW: “THE MANY WAYS TO GO APE(S)” Put these facts on index cards. Study them throughout the year. The underlined term or phrase goes on one side, and the definition/explanation goes on the other side.
The vast oceans of water beneath the Earth’s crust is precisely what the Bible describes in the first book of Genesis. In fact, prior to the flood of Noah’s day, it had never rained. Disclosure statement. Christopher Krupenye receives funding from the National Science Foundation, the National Academy of Sciences, and the United States Agency for International Development.