Chimply amazing |

TBC Staff

New York Times News Service, 11/28/03- Fossil bones record the history of the human form, but they say little about behavior. A richer source of the way human social behavior evolved may be chimpanzees, with whom people shared a common ancestor as recently as 5 or 6 million years ago.

From knowledge of chimp behavior, biologists can plausibly infer the social behavior of the shared human-chimp ancestor, and from that they can reconstruct the evolutionary history of human social behavior.

Such reconstructions are subject to much uncertainty and debate, especially when they imply a genetic basis of human behaviors like living in communities based on male kinship or conducting lethal campaigns against neighbors. But the goal is to shed light on the full sweep of human social behavior, tracing its evolution from an apelike community with separate male and female hierarchies 5 million years ago to the family-based societies of today.

A principal assumption is that chimpanzees, unlike people, have changed little and therefore their social behavior is a good guide to that of the common ancestor. One support for this idea is that the earliest fossils on the human side after the split are very chimplike. Another is that the chimps of western and eastern Africa are hard to tell apart, despite some 1.5 million of years of separate evolution.

After 40 years of arduous study, biologists have put together a coherent, if not yet complete, picture of chimpanzee societies. From observations at several different sites in Africa, there is an “emerging consensus regarding chimpanzee social structure, territory characteristics and intergroup interactions,” two primatologists...say in an article in The Annual Review of Anthropology....Assuming the common anscestor of people and chimps had social behavior that was essentially chimplike, how much of that behavior has been inherited by people?

The unusual behavioral suite of male kin bonding and lethal territorial aggression may look as if it has been inherited with little change.

“...God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”—Genesis:1:27