There may be more differences than we believed.
A science report in Nature Communications argues that our hands are primitive compared to a chimp. Even though we consider ourselves superior in many ways to our closest living relative in the animal kingdom it appears that the chimpanzees have the upper hand in this matter.
Over the years scientist believed that the human hand, capable of highly precise and complex actions, represented one of the pinnacles of our evolution and that it has long since surpassed that of the primates. However, a research group led by Sergio Almécija, now working for the George Washington University Centre, claims that this belief is at least partially wrong.
Humans where thought to have properly developed their hands after they started using basic tools made from stone. But Almécija’s team has compared the ratios of the different parts of our hands and arms to those of the chimpanzees and apes. The findings suggest that little has changed from even before humans picked up the first tool.
We have very similar hands to those of our hominoid ancestors, while the chimpanzee underwent a significant evolution in this part of the body. Their hands are significantly more specialized than ours, with longer fingers compared to their thumbs. They probably developed this feature after we stopped evolving our arms and legs.
Their hands serve as their tools, allowing them to have an easier time reaching for food and climbing trees. Humans on the other hand went through major neurological evolutions that allowed them to create stone weapons and other equipment that was vital to their survival, while their arms remained mostly unchanged.
Also, gorillas do have very similar hands to ours, indicating that land based primates may have stopped evolving their limbs altogether a long time ago (though gorillas do have one big opposable toe). Almécija believes his research proves that the common ancestor for the both humans and chimps was more human-liked, and that the chimp evolved on a different path while we developed our brains.
On the other hand, Adrienne Zihlman from the University of California challenges the findings of Almécija and his team. She claims the research is only based upon the different proportions of hand bones alone and that a lot more data is required to draw a pertinent conclusion regarding the main ancestor of the primates.
Nevertheless, the research does provide a new point of view in regards to our evolution as a species.
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