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Thread: Apes and Men

  1. #1 Apes and Men 
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    Just what were the survival or reproductive advantages that early
    hominids had over their ape ancestors?

    They were physically different and had different habits and abilities,
    but were they better in an evolutionary sense?

    I presume the early hominids still suffered from disease and inferility,
    so what was the genetic advantage that they had that was favored by
    natural selection and allowed them to have more offspring and thus
    evolve en masse?

    And if we are a tiny split from the rest of the primates, why did
    evolution ( in a macro-evolutionary sense) stop with the others?

    Surely variation in ape populations has continued for last few
    million years, so what has stopped them from evolving into
    different species?


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    Evolution has not stopped for the other apes, it is still happening, click the link to the video on my signature, you will see what I mean.

    It is not about what is "better" it is about the ability of the species to reproduce fruitful offspring. So far, the other apes are not faring as well as our ancestors for some reason. Mostly they are dying off because we are destroying their habitats. There ARE many different species of primates!

    In ancient history, our ancestors genome and habitat 'caused' our species to take the direction it did over many many years, and it caused us to gain the intelligence we have now.


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    There is a theory circulating, I only heard of it today, that modern day humans are evolved of a kind of amphibious primate. My friend was talking about it so I don't know the ins and outs but it's something to do with our lack of hair and the little hair we do have is streamlined. Also (apparently) no monkey or ape can hold its breath underwater due to lack of a flap (or some such thing) at the back of their throat to close the air passage.

    This was sprung on me out of the blue so I have no idea about it. But if we look at an aquatic mammal, the dolphin, we see that it also has short streamlined hair (of course because it lives in the water duh) and is often considered the second most intelligent creature on the planet.

    Could there be a link there and can someone either confirm or tear down what I heard because I'd like to know
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tenacity
    There is a theory circulating, I only heard of it today, that modern day humans are evolved of a kind of amphibious primate. My friend was talking about it so I don't know the ins and outs but it's something to do with our lack of hair and the little hair we do have is streamlined. Also (apparently) no monkey or ape can hold its breath underwater due to lack of a flap (or some such thing) at the back of their throat to close the air passage.

    This was sprung on me out of the blue so I have no idea about it. But if we look at an aquatic mammal, the dolphin, we see that it also has short streamlined hair (of course because it lives in the water duh) and is often considered the second most intelligent creature on the planet.

    Could there be a link there and can someone either confirm or tear down what I heard because I'd like to know

    You know you could be right: I look at my hand and see an amphibian's flipper when I hold all four fingers together.
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    I can't quite tell if that's sarcasm. If it is it's actually kinda funny :P If not coolbeans.
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    What seperated early man from the apes was
    1) the abillity to reason - understand cause and effect
    2) develop and use tools to survive
    3) develop communication

    Tenacity, the theory you spoke of is one where pre-mammals are now thought to have derived from an amphibian of some sort. If you go back far enough, we have evolved from primordeal goo...something I have no doubt about whatsoever (just turn on the TV and see what they are calling entertainment these days!)
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    Quote Originally Posted by CShark
    What seperated early man from the apes was
    1) the abillity to reason - understand cause and effect
    2) develop and use tools to survive
    3) develop communication

    Tenacity, the theory you spoke of is one where pre-mammals are now thought to have derived from an amphibian of some sort. If you go back far enough, we have evolved from primordeal goo...something I have no doubt about whatsoever (just turn on the TV and see what they are calling entertainment these days!)

    OK...but did they reproduce more than other apes with these advantages.

    I don't know the birth rates of other primates but suspect they could be higher than those of the early hominids.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heliopolis
    Quote Originally Posted by CShark
    What seperated early man from the apes was
    1) the abillity to reason - understand cause and effect
    2) develop and use tools to survive
    3) develop communication

    Tenacity, the theory you spoke of is one where pre-mammals are now thought to have derived from an amphibian of some sort. If you go back far enough, we have evolved from primordeal goo...something I have no doubt about whatsoever (just turn on the TV and see what they are calling entertainment these days!)

    OK...but did they reproduce more than other apes with these advantages.

    I don't know the birth rates of other primates but suspect they could be higher than those of the early hominids.
    They don't have to reproduce more than other apes if they are seperated geographically, then they just have to reproduce enough not to go extinct.
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  10. #9 Re: Apes and Men 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heliopolis
    Surely variation in ape populations has continued for last few million years, so what has stopped them from evolving into
    different species?
    in fact chimps are genetically far more varied than the billion of H.sapiens
    if punctuated equilibrium has told us anything it is that phenotypic change does not always follow from genotypic change : the latter tends to be fairly uniform over geological time, but the former often isn't

    besides many of the phenotypic changes are not clearly evident in the fossil record (e.g. hair colour + distribution, ability to invent and use tools, resistance against viruses etc.), hence if you just go by stones and bones you're going to underestimate the real phenotypic change anyway
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (Philip K. Dick)
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  11. #10 Re: Apes and Men 
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    Quote Originally Posted by marnixR
    Quote Originally Posted by Heliopolis
    Surely variation in ape populations has continued for last few million years, so what has stopped them from evolving into
    different species?
    in fact chimps are genetically far more varied than the billion of H.sapiens
    if punctuated equilibrium has told us anything it is that phenotypic change does not always follow from genotypic change : the latter tends to be fairly uniform over geological time, but the former often isn't

    besides many of the phenotypic changes are not clearly evident in the fossil record (e.g. hair colour + distribution, ability to invent and use tools, resistance against viruses etc.), hence if you just go by stones and bones you're going to underestimate the real phenotypic change anyway
    I read somewhere that there is scant fossil evidence for chimps.

    Btw, Philosophorum sounds a cool place: can we smoke cigars and relax in armchairs while we debate?
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  12. #11  
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    Quote Originally Posted by i_feel_tiredsleepy
    Quote Originally Posted by Heliopolis
    Quote Originally Posted by CShark
    What seperated early man from the apes was
    1) the abillity to reason - understand cause and effect
    2) develop and use tools to survive
    3) develop communication

    Tenacity, the theory you spoke of is one where pre-mammals are now thought to have derived from an amphibian of some sort. If you go back far enough, we have evolved from primordeal goo...something I have no doubt about whatsoever (just turn on the TV and see what they are calling entertainment these days!)

    OK...but did they reproduce more than other apes with these advantages.

    I don't know the birth rates of other primates but suspect they could be higher than those of the early hominids.
    They don't have to reproduce more than other apes if they are seperated geographically, then they just have to reproduce enough not to go extinct.

    I just don't buy the founder effect theory: Study after study has shown
    that it just leads to inbreeding and loss of fitness.

    And was the first hominid a freaky mutant ( a form of saltation) and
    wouldn't his mate have been a non-hominid?
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  13. #12  
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    Quote Originally Posted by CShark
    What seperated early man from the apes was
    1) the abillity to reason - understand cause and effect
    2) develop and use tools to survive
    3) develop communication
    All these made us better scavengers/foragers, flexible and opportunistic. It is really fine to remember, when you're hungry, where you spotted some birds' nests on a cliff, trot back and figure out how to get at them. Spacial, and even photographic, memory, all animals have, but we have it in reflection: "Now where did I leave that long stick?"

    Then if you can prompt another to fetch the stick... wow.

    I guess we did a lot of pantomime early on. Here I think the demand is not so much on the actor going through motions, but the audience having empathy to pay attention, get inside the others' mind, and respond appropriately. If you strain for something out of reach (point), will a chimp help you get it?
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  14. #13 Re: Apes and Men 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heliopolis
    I read somewhere that there is scant fossil evidence for chimps.
    true, their habitat with its acid soil is not conducive to fossilisation - however, don't fall in the creationist trap who insist that all our knowledge comes from the fossil record : genetics and comparative anatomy play important roles too

    Quote Originally Posted by Heliopolis
    Btw, Philosophorum sounds a cool place: can we smoke cigars and relax in armchairs while we debate?
    don't mind if you smoke + sit in armchairs, provided you bring your own
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (Philip K. Dick)
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    All these made us better scavengers/foragers, flexible and opportunistic. It is really fine to remember, when you're hungry, where you spotted some birds' nests on a cliff, trot back and figure out how to get at them. Spacial, and even photographic, memory, all animals have, but we have it in reflection: "Now where did I leave that long stick?"

    Then if you can prompt another to fetch the stick... wow.
    Exactly. Of course, chimps can be trained to do some marvelous things, but I would think most of their behaviour is responsive and instinct, and not due to an evolved thought process.

    I don't think an ape, seeing a cow, would have thought to itself "Hey, I'm gonna drink whatever comes out of those dangly bits".
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    Actually, the bonobo learn without being trained. click the link in my signature!

    I do not think the traits we have are biological, rather, I believe it is cultural. Look at the isolated tribes that were discovered in the last 100 years like the tasmanians, they were extremely "primitive", almost ape like. It was not biology allowing them to learn modern science, it was other cultures that came in contact with them. They are as perfectly capable as we are, they just had to be introduced to more scientific/technological cultures.

    This is what makes the bonobo so interesting to me.
    "It's no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense." - Mark Twain
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  17. #16  
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    Quote Originally Posted by SuperNatendo
    Actually, the bonobo learn without being trained. click the link in my signature!

    I do not think the traits we have are biological, rather, I believe it is cultural. Look at the isolated tribes that were discovered in the last 100 years like the tasmanians, they were extremely "primitive", almost ape like. It was not biology allowing them to learn modern science, it was other cultures that came in contact with them. They are as perfectly capable as we are, they just had to be introduced to more scientific/technological cultures.

    This is what makes the bonobo so interesting to me.

    Good point, and I agree.
    I tried the link, it doesn't seem to like Opera. I'll try from work tomorrow.
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  18. #17  
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    Quote Originally Posted by SuperNatendo
    I do not think the traits we have are biological, rather, I believe it is cultural.
    Yes, that "evolved thought process" CShark mentioned. This is really obvious when you raise a child. We begin all id. Then ego (I mean self awareness, objective thinking, sophisticated empathy) comes later because it is entirely learned. Rational behaviour hinges on the ego. It builds and evolves with every generation. So I guess once we got started down that way, we really took off.

    We evolve on our feet, so to speak.

    I've been working on my six-year-old's ego lately. He needs a masterful ego to think, "What am I doing?" "Did I forget something?" and so forth. It appears to start with echoes, that is what I communicate he mirrors internally. These echoes he claims his own and develops into an independent adult in it's own right. It's a kind of multigenerational and immortal mind, reproducing and adapting not by stubborn genes but by spoken word and quick thinking. I feel a bit treacherous, collaborating with this new person who will whip the baby into submission.

    This ego we share, where did it come from? I can see early humans being "ripe" for an ego, but I wonder what actually sparked it? I liken it to the industrial revolution: something begun, almost by accident, and spread and grew and took over everything in its path, exponentially. What set us rolling?
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  19. #18 Apes, humans and language 
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    The giant step to mankind was the development of language ! It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of language. It is not only a new dimension in communication, it is the very basis and instrument of rational (and irrational!) reasoning. By reducing the things and actions of the world to abstract patterns of sound (words) a human gains an abstract view of the world, with an abstract view of himself as "I". In words we can imagine the world to be different in some respect, and then act to change the world to make this difference a reality. This ability I deem creativity. Animals can only react to the world in the light of instinct (memories of the species), and experience. Animals can only react to their immediate experiences. The distinguished student of language, Noam Chomsky, holds that the ability to produce words, to communicate with words, and to think with words requires not just a bigger brain (just more of the same), but entirely novel neural arrangements. It also requires at least hundreds of new nerves and muscles to achieve the precise control of lips, tongue , larynx and breath required to exquisitely articulate and modulate the sounds of words. Surely all this precisely co-ordinated development could not have been brought about by a sequence of individual random variations, each of which in itself conferred a potent advantage in survival! If we aspire to a scientific view of our world we must always remember that science is no more than an imperfect and incomplete description of the world. It is the best description we have for now; it is not self explanatory!
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  20. #19  
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    Seeking to justify the introduction of Irreducible Complexity on the back of an Argument from Incredulity is hardly going to convince anyone who possesses, in abundance, the skills Chomsky is rightly admiring of.
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    Apparently I am guilty of the "introduction of Irreducible Complexity on the back of an Argument from Incredulity". It's probably a blessing that I haven't a clue what that means. I do believe that the world in all its complexity is not totally reducible to logical analysis, and that this applies especially to the interactions of mind and matter. I do believe that our minds are capable of creativity, of imagining new patterns of sound, colour, mechanical and social organisation, etc., and of acting to bring such imaginings to reality. And I do feel that Chomsky would not judge me too harshly for quoting his own words dismissing chance variability and survival of the fittest as the whole story of evolution.
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    Well, apes don't have logic.
    Science gives people the hope always.
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimell View Post
    Apparently I am guilty of the "introduction of Irreducible Complexity on the back of an Argument from Incredulity". It's probably a blessing that I haven't a clue what that means.
    Irreducible complexity is an argument by creationists that organisms (like the eye) are too complex to have evolved by chance mutations. Argument from Incredulity means you do not believe something because you think it is too incredible or unlikely. This is a fallacy, because your lack of imagination is not evidence that the thing being discussed is impossible.
    I do believe that the world in all its complexity is not totally reducible to logical analysis, and that this applies especially to the interactions of mind and matter. I do believe that our minds are capable of creativity, of imagining new patterns of sound, colour, mechanical and social organisation, etc., and of acting to bring such imaginings to reality. And I do feel that Chomsky would not judge me too harshly for quoting his own words dismissing chance variability and survival of the fittest as the whole story of evolution.
    Did you quote Chomsky's own words? Where did you do that?
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  24. #23  
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    Quote Originally Posted by overthelight View Post
    Well, apes don't have logic.
    Then how do they solve problems?
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    Is this anything to do with memetics? (I don't know much about it / if it holds water, but just wondered if this is essentially what's being discussed)
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong View Post
    This ego we share, where did it come from? I can see early humans being "ripe" for an ego, but I wonder what actually sparked it? I liken it to the industrial revolution: something begun, almost by accident, and spread and grew and took over everything in its path, exponentially. What set us rolling?
    I believe you would be interested in the book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes. He argues that humans only gained consciousness in historical times. He argues that the ancient Greeks did indeed hear gods, but these gods were one side of their brain talking to the other. The argument was well received, the book enjoyed critical success, but the idea was largely ignored in the mainstream.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heliopolis View Post
    Just what were the survival or reproductive advantages that early
    hominids had over their ape ancestors?

    They were physically different and had different habits and abilities,
    but were they better in an evolutionary sense?

    I presume the early hominids still suffered from disease and inferility,
    so what was the genetic advantage that they had that was favored by
    natural selection and allowed them to have more offspring and thus
    evolve en masse?

    And if we are a tiny split from the rest of the primates, why did
    evolution ( in a macro-evolutionary sense) stop with the others?

    Surely variation in ape populations has continued for last few
    million years, so what has stopped them from evolving into
    different species?
    Mother nature moves relatively slow. There is just nothing pushing apes to change as rapidly as hominids do and have.

    Look at it this way. Humans went from riding horses to walking on the moon in less than 100 years. Mother nature did not push man to the moon, they made this leap due to their own artificial pressure / driving forces. Mother nature often plays no roll in the leaps and bound humans make but, and unfortunately for apes, mother nature drives them and pushes them... It is a slow, very slow process and she can keep them roughly as they are, and where they are, for millions and millions of years.
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    jimell's point is important, regardless of how it was presented. Humans have become creatures of the purely symbolic. The more interesting question I think is how much of this is purely niche? There are not many cases of feral humans, but those cases that can be verified (and do not involve people afflicted with, say, down syndrome) give us a glimpse of ourselves without language, culture, society, but still possessing a big ol' noggin. It seems to follow that language is a byproduct of our niche more than our genes.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoshuaL View Post
    jimell's point is important, regardless of how it was presented. Humans have become creatures of the purely symbolic. The more interesting question I think is how much of this is purely niche? There are not many cases of feral humans, but those cases that can be verified (and do not involve people afflicted with, say, down syndrome) give us a glimpse of ourselves without language, culture, society, but still possessing a big ol' noggin. It seems to follow that language is a byproduct of our niche more than our genes.
    I am not aware of any "ferral" humans ever discovered that had no language, culture or society.

    Also, we had to develop specific physiological attributes in order to be able to develop a complex verbal knowledge in the first place, so I would not agree with language being more a product of niche.

    I also don't understand why you feel we are creatures of the purely symbolic. You can't build a space shuttle with symbolism.
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    You can't build a spaceship without symbolism. o.O
    Also, I am surprised you've never heard of feral humans. Generally children abandoned at a very early age. Most of those kids die, of course, but occasionally some survive. They have no language, obviously, as language must be learned. No one around to learn a language from = no language. Just search for "feral children" or the like. You'll find plenty of results.
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    It seems quite interesting to postulate on what other ways of communications humans may have developed if we hadn't be capable of speech. Presumably given the size of our brains and intelligence levels we would have still gone to create some sort of language. I wonder if it would have been anything like modern day sign language.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chrisgorlitz View Post
    It seems quite interesting to postulate on what other ways of communications humans may have developed if we hadn't be capable of speech. Presumably given the size of our brains and intelligence levels we would have still gone to create some sort of language. I wonder if it would have been anything like modern day sign language.
    Definitely. Although we've developed these amazing vocal cords and mouth muscles, there is nothing to stop us communicating in other ways. In fact, we already do this. Writing is very different than speaking, for example. And as there is no inherent connection between the written word and the spoken word, you could learn a language without knowing how to speak any of it. That's why I refer to "symbolism" above. We as a species interact with our world primarily through symbols. Your entire internet experience, watching tv, playing games, reading a book are only the obvious examples. Building a spaceship is a great example because of all the layers of symbolism required. All the calculations, reams of manuals describing every piece of metal, every button and switch, which must be made to exacting standards. Simply amazing what we're capable of, but we would not be able to it without our ability to recognize that one thing stands for another (ever used a map?).
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    I have expounded on my personal hypothesis before, but why not again?

    We do not know why humans evolved as we did, but I see one possible reason. The very unique thing about humans is not our large brain (Orca has one bigger), or upright stance (other apes have this when they need it). The uniqueness of humans is 'advanced' technology. I define 'advanced' as shaping stones or better.

    Technology is not uncommon in the animal kingdom. Wild chimps smash nuts between rocks, and use broken branches as short spears. New Caledonian crows bend grass to make a hook for extracting food. Galapagos finches use cactus spines to prize out insects. This level of technology was almost certainly present in our ancestors before they left the way of life of other great apes.

    My hypothesis is that the big change was the more extensive use of technology. For example, holding onto useful tools instead of throwing them away. Using thigh bones as clubs, as in 2001, a Space Odyssey.. Once tool and weapon use becomes a normal part of daily life, certain traits become advantageous in the evolutionary sense. Like upright stance to free the hands. Stronger legs. Better fingers. etc.

    Later in evolution we know that our ancestors made forays into the African savannah. This would seem suicidal for a weak one metre high ape with no claws or teeth of any consequence. However, if they went as a team, bearing weapons, then driving off predators becomes possible, and wider food supplies of the savannah become available. This change in behaviour makes social grouping, better communication etc advantageous in evolution.

    Further technology, like fire and clothing, would permit the evolution of functional hairlessness. The use of fire and cooking would also permit the evolution of a smaller digestive tract (humans have the smallest for their size of any primate) and unspecialised teeth. We know from the fact that Homo floresiensis had a tiny brain but used sophisticated chipped stone tools, that the big brain is not needed to make and wield simple technology. The increase in brain size may have been a result of more social cooperation.

    Ultimately, with tool and weapons use (technology) and social cooperation (language), we get to Homo sapiens.
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    Skeptic, I think you're right. Technology changes the way we think about things. We don't just get new technology out of thin air; as we use our technology, we adapt it and we also adapt ourselves to it. We develop new ways of thinking. I can imagine that as tool use increased and diversified, our brains became better at abstract thinking, then symbolic thinking in general, then language in particular. I haven't read it yet, but now I think I might go pick up a copy of "Cognition and Tool Use" [link].
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heliopolis View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by CShark
    What seperated early man from the apes was
    1) the abillity to reason - understand cause and effect
    2) develop and use tools to survive
    3) develop communication

    Tenacity, the theory you spoke of is one where pre-mammals are now thought to have derived from an amphibian of some sort. If you go back far enough, we have evolved from primordeal goo...something I have no doubt about whatsoever (just turn on the TV and see what they are calling entertainment these days!)

    OK...but did they reproduce more than other apes with these advantages.
    With respect
    I don't know the birth rates of other primates but suspect they could be higher than those of the early hominids.
    Tenacity, the suggestion of homo aquaticus was aired in "Scientific American" about 50 years ago, but never received much support. With regard to the flap closing the air passage to the lungs during swallowing food or water, this is common to all animals. With regard to birth rates of apes vs early humanoids, it may well be that survival rates, rather than birth rates, determined the ascendency of the first humoids. My suggestion is that the apes that adopted the use of fire gained a distinct improvement in the ability to survive to adulthood - Jimell
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  36. #35  
    Forum Ph.D.
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    There seems to be a list of necessary traits; tool use, herd or team behavior, memory, symbolic communication. Many animals use tools. Many are herd animals and even work as a cooperative team to achiving goals. Symbolic communication is harder to find examples of but great apes can be taught sign language. Memory may be the biggy but not even this is unique to humans. Dolphins come to mind and also parrots.
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