103605 What makes us human
Editor's note: The following is a summary of this week's Time magazine cover story.
(Time.com) -- You don't have to be a biologist or an anthropologist to see how closely the great apes -- gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans -- resemble us.
Even a child can see that their bodies are pretty much the same as ours, apart from some exaggerated proportions and extra body hair. Apes have dexterous hands much like ours but unlike those of any other creature. And, most striking of all, their faces are uncannily expressive, showing a range of emotions that are eerily familiar.
It isn't just a superficial resemblance. Chimps, especially, not only look like us, they also share with us some human-like behaviors. They make and use tools and teach those skills to their offspring.
They prey on other animals and occasionally murder each other. They have complex social hierarchies and some aspects of what anthropologists consider culture. They can't form words, but they can learn to communicate via sign language and symbols and to perform complex cognitive tasks.
Scientists figured out decades ago that chimps are our nearest evolutionary cousins, roughly 98 percent to 99 percent identical to humans at the genetic level. When it comes to DNA, a human is closer to a chimp than a mouse is to a rat.( Read more...Collapse )