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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

King Ape

Last year, new genetic tests comparing DNA from humans, chimps, gorillas and orangutans revealed striking similarities in the way chimps and humans evolve - which set them apart from the others.

The finding added further weight to a controversial proposal to scrap the long-used chimp genus
Pan and reclassify the animals as members of the human family.

The move would give chimps a new place in creation's pecking order alongside humans, the only survivor of the genus
Homo.

And now more fuel to the fire - the discovery of a tribe of chimpanzees in Senegal, Africa, that have been observed fashioning and then using wooden spears to hunt smaller primates...

"Researchers documented 22 cases of chimps fashioning tools to jab at smaller primates sheltering in cavities of hollow branches or tree trunks ... witnessed a chimpanzee extract a bushbaby with a spear."



This is a fascinating and yet disturbing new discovery. One wonders if the boundaries between chimps and humans are now just a matter of a few facial expressions and an upright backbone. They may not speak like we do, but just look at the list of similarities that we share with our ape cousins. They've already been documented hunting smaller monkeys, committing genocide and even torturing.

Many experts believe because of our own human impact on the Earth, that chimpanzees have reached the end of their evolutionary journey - but given these traits, and another million years or so, and of course taking us out of the equation, I am sure that chimps would go on to fill our shoes quite comfortably.

Theoretically it was only a million years or so in the past when one tribe of apes, outmaneuvered and out-competed by a dominant forest-dwelling chimpanzee ancestor, was forced to take to the open plains in search of new territory and stride out on their hind limbs...

The chimps were always Kings of the Forest, perfectly adapted to the more rigorous demands of surviving in this complex environment. I'm sure that there'll be further secrets to their success revealed in the years to come...

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